By Rob Daniels
GREENSBORO, N.C. – The UNCG Spartans eradicated a 13-point halftime deficit Thursday but couldn't avoid the sting of a 13th defeat, remaining winless on the season with a 68-64 loss to Samford's efficient, Princeton-styled offense.
The Bulldogs, whose perpetual-motion set tends to create back-door opportunities or open 3-pointers or both, repelled three Spartan comeback bids in the final 20 minutes to improve to 10-5 overall and 2-1 in the Southern Conference.
UNCG's final bid for a comeback came off Trevis Simpson's slam-follow of an Aloysius Henry miss with 37.1 seconds left. The play produced the Spartans' only offensive rebound of the second half and made it 62-60.
"I thought that play was going to give us energy to get a stop and a steal," Simpson said.
Instead, the Bulldogs got free in breaking the press and got their own dunk to restore the edge to four points. The Spartans never got a chance to tie or take the lead in the final minutes.
"If we had tied the game, we could have pulled out the win because we played the second half angry," Simpson said. "We have to learn to play the first half angry. We should have been mad to start the game."
UNCG played its best defensive half of the year, but was hindered in part by 9-of-17 free-throw shooting in falling to 0-3 in the Southern Conference. Thursday's game was the team's first since last week's defeat to No. 1 Duke, the sixth of seven affairs against ACC teams.
"In bits and pieces, you can see that (the schedule) helps," UNCG coach Mike Dement said. "Because we've talked a lot since the Duke game about how this is a new season and it's league play. But we didn't win."
Sprung by Korey Van Dussen's three connections from long range, the Spartans scored the first 13 points of the second half to draw even at 40-40. After allowing 27 points in the game's first 10 minutes, UNCG induced nine consecutive misses from the Bulldogs during the comeback. Those stops didn't lead to layups, but they did allow the Spartans to get upcourt before Samford could completely set its defense. All of Van Dussen's 3-pointers were in unsettled situations.
"They made that 13-0 run when we couldn't find Van Dussen," Samford coach Jimmy Tillette said. "Are you kidding me? The guy can shoot the ball. And he's standing right there."
Wiping out a big deficit and drawing even doesn't necessarily finish the job by itself, and Samford again bolted to a 51-45 advantage before the Spartans made their second surge. Henry, who was limited to 21 minutes of playing time because of illness and foul trouble, converted Van Dussen's alley-oop to make it 51-51 with 7:09 to play.
Again the Bulldogs responded, getting the lead for good when Josh Bedwell, "the little kid who looks like Howdy Doody," as his coach called him, nailed a 3-pointer out of the left corner.
The play symbolized why the Bulldogs (10-5, 2-1 Southern Conference) are tough to stop. Samford, which operates a stressful motion offense, has nobody taller than 6-foot-9 on its roster but starts four guys who are effectively swing men.
They spread the floor, create space and score with back-door cuts or open 3-pointers facilitated by the defense's constant need to catch up. Consequently, nearly 73 percent of their field goals are assisted. That figure leads the country and is appreciably higher than the national average of 54 percent.
The Bulldogs, who struck for six back-door baskets in the first half, got their biggest one when Bedwell snuck down the middle of the lane, took Gaby Bermudez' pass and made a layup for a 62-58 lead with 2:19 left. Tillette said he had called for a similar play on the previous possession, but the effort fell short when Bedwell fell.
"He tripped," Tillette said. "Or maybe a sniper shot him. I don't know."
The Spartans return to action at 2 p.m. Saturday against Chattanooga.
"I feel bad for Mike because his team's competitive and they play hard," Tillette said. "I'm just glad they didn't get it totally right tonight. They're going to get right in the conference."
Samford 68, UNCG 64
SAMFORD (10-5, 2-1 SoCon)
MERRITT, Jeffrey 7-14 2-2 17; DAVIS, Josh 5-10 2-2 15; BEDWELL, Josh 5-7 0-0 13; WOOTEN, Gregg 2-8 4-4 8; WINDLER, Drew 3-4 0-2 7; PETERSON, John 0-2 4-5 4; JOHNSON, Kaylin 2-5 0-0 4; KING, Andy 0-1 0-1 0; FRIDAY, Matthew 0-0 0-0 0; BERMUDEZ, Gaby 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 24-53 12-16 68.
UNCG (0-13, 0-3 SoCon)
VAN DUSSEN, Korey 6-10 0-0 15; SIMPSON, Trevis 5-14 3-5 14; HENRY, Aloysius 3-7 4-6 10; RANDALL, Kyle 3-9 0-0 8; BRACKETT, Aaron 3-5 0-0 6; WILLIAMS, David 2-3 0-1 4; EVANS, Brandon 1-4 1-3 3; PARKER, Drew 1-3 0-0 3; HENEGAR, Cody 0-1 1-2 1; COLE, Brian 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-56 9-17 64.
Samford....................... 40 28 - 68
UNCG.......................... 27 37 - 64
3-point goals--Samford 8-23 (DAVIS, Josh 3-7; BEDWELL, Josh 3-5; MERRITT, Jeffrey 1-4; WINDLER, Drew 1-2; KING, Andy 0-1; BERMUDEZ, Gaby 0-1; JOHNSON, Kaylin 0-2; PETERSON, John 0-1), UNCG 7-21 (VAN DUSSEN, Korey 3-5; RANDALL, Kyle 2-4; SIMPSON, Trevis 1-5; PARKER, Drew 1-3; EVANS, Brandon 0-3; WILLIAMS, David 0-1). Fouled out--Samford-WINDLER, Drew, UNCG-None. Rebounds--Samford 31 (MERRITT, Jeffrey 7), UNCG 34 (HENRY, Aloysius 8). Assists--Samford 16 (BEDWELL, Josh 4), UNCG 10 (PARKER, Drew 3; EVANS, Brandon 3). Total fouls--Samford 16, UNCG 18. Technical fouls--Samford-None, UNCG-None. A-2196
- UNCG -