SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Brandon Evans had 19 points and 10 rebounds and Ben Stywall had 17 points and nine boards as UNC Greensboro picked up its first win of the season, 76-70, over USC Upstate in men's basketball action Tuesday night at the Hodge Center.
Mikko Koivisto added 13 points, including 4-of-6 from three-point range. Koivisto now has at least one three-pointer in 15 consecutive games dating back to last season. He lost his consecutive free throw streak at 20 in row.
Nick Schneiders, Upstate's 7-3 man in the middle, had game-highs with 23 points and 12 rebounds to lead the host Spartans (0-4).
UNCG, the visiting Spartans, led by as 11 with 5:02 to play after a four-point play by Evans, knocking down a trey from the right side as he got fouled. But USC Upstate chipped away and cut it to 70-65 with 1:41 to play on Schneider's bucket. USC Upstate violated on the ensuing free throw, giving the ball back to UNCG.
Evans made one of two at the line to run the lead back to six and Gordon knocked did the same on the other end 20 seconds later for USC Upstate.
But Stywall made one of two at the line and then got free for a breakaway dunk to extend the lead to eight with 25 seconds to play.
After both teams shot better than 50 percent in the opening half, defenses took over in the second half. UNCG held Upstate without a three-pointer in the second half (0-for-9) after the host squad was 4-for-8 from behind the arc in the first half to hang within a basket.
"They've been playing well on the road and the big kid in the middle has been playing real well," said UNCG coach Mike Dement. "We played in front of him and he dunked it. We played behind him and he made some nice post moves. We don't have anyone height-wise that matches up with him real well. When he's making those jump shots, he's real tough.
"I thought our guys did a great job in the second half defending the three-pointer. They hit some in the first half. Both teams missed some free throws, but we made just enough down the stretch to win."
The Spartans opened the game by making seven of their first 10 from the floor, including a pair of three-pointers by Koivisto, to take an early 16-13 lead. But Upstate was equally effective on the offensive end of the floor. An 11-2 run by the home team gave Upstate a 32-25 advantage with five minutes left before intermission.
UNCG had an answer, though, with a 15-2 run, capped off by a Koivisto trey from the left corner to give UNCG a 40-34 lead with just under two minutes to play before half.
The Spartans wound up shooting 65.4 percent from the floor in the opening half - the sixth best shooting half in school history and third best opening half ever - and still found themselves only up three, 42-39, thanks to USC Upstate's 50 percent shooting from the field.
Both teams cooled off to open the second half. UNCG's lead was five with 12 minutes to play when both teams when into a scoring drought. UNCG went four minutes between field goals, but Montell Smith's coast-to-coast layup gave UNCG a 58-52 advantage with 8:02 to play.
UNCG returns home to face East Carolina on Saturday afternoon at the Greensboro Coliseum. Game time is set for 4 p.m. and the first 2,000 fans through the gates will receive a foam Spartan Spear.
UNCG 76, USC UPSTATE 70
Brandon Evans 4-12 8-15 19; Ben Stywall 8-12 1-3 17; Mikko Koivisto 4-7 1-2 13; Kyle Randall 2-5 5-6 9; Brian Cole 4-6 0-0 8; Montel Smith 1-2 2-4 4; Pete Brown 2-6 0-0 4; Kendall Toney 1-4 0-0 2; Elhanan Bone 0-1 0-0 0; Korey Van Dussen 0-0 0-0 0; Darrius Sellers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-55 17-30 76.
USC UPSTATE (0-4)
Nick Schneiders 10-16 3-8 23; Carter Cook 5-9 1-1 12; Pat Posey 3-11 2-2 9; Mezie Uzochukwu 3-7 1-2 7; Ryan Legates 2-3 0-0 5; Josh Chavis 1-7 2-2 4; Chalmers Rogers 2-5 0-0 4; Sharod Minus 1-4 0-0 3; De'Marion Gordon 1-2 1-2 3; Caleb Palkert 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-64 10-17 70.
Halftime: UNCG 42-39. 3-point goals--UNCG 7-15 (Mikko Koivisto 4-6; Brandon Evans 3-5; Montel Smith 0-1; Kendall Toney 0-3), USC Upstate 4-17 (Pat Posey 1-3; Ryan Legates 1-2; Sharod Minus 1-3; Carter Cook 1-3; Chalmers Rogers 0-1; Josh Chavis 0-5). Fouled out--UNCG-None, USC Upstate-Pat Posey. Rebounds--UNCG 37 (Brandon Evans 10), USC Upstate 40 (Nick Schneiders 12). Assists--UNCG 16 (Kyle Randall 4), USC Upstate 16 (Josh Chavis 4; Carter Cook 4). Total fouls--UNCG 18, USC Upstate 25. Technical fouls--UNCG-None, USC Upstate-None. A-824
FREE THROWS: Evans' points-rebounds double-double made him the first guard since Ricky Hickman to record such. Hickman did it three times, the last on Jan. 2, 2007 in a double-overtime loss to NC State... What does opening the season with three ACC teams do for your RPI? Well, the Spartans opened the day Tuesday with an RPI rank of 64 and a strength of schedule ranking of 4 amongst the 347 Division I teams. Tuesday's win will make that go down, however, as USC Upstate was ranked No. 341... after shooting 65.4 percent in the first half from the floor, UNCG shot just 31 percent (9-for-29) in the second half... the Spartans were 17-of-30 from the free throw line on the night, including 7-for-12 in the final five minutes following the four-point play by Evans.
- UNCG -