Short-Handed Men’s Hoops Falls At Western Carolina, 62-59
CULLOWHEE, N.C. – Senior guard Derrell Armstrong (Mechanicsville, Md./Allegany CC) saw his potential game-tying three-pointer hit the back of the rim at the buzzer as the UNCG men's basketball team suffered a hard fought 62-59 loss to Southern Conference North Division leading Western Carolina Saturday afternoon at the Ramsey Center.
"I am really proud of our team and the fight they showed but that doesn't mean we are happy with the result," head coach Wes Miller said. "For 35 minutes, we were the tougher team and took the fight to Western Carolina. We couldn't close it out in the last five minutes but we were resilient in our play, playing without two starters in Trevis (Simpson) and Korey (Vand Dussen)."
Armstrong led the team in scoring with 25 points, including 17 in the second half to pace the Spartans. He scored the final eight points of the game and had a quality look at the basket as the buzzer sounded.
The Spartans shot 41-percent in the second half (11-for-27) from the field to end the game at 36 percent while holding the visitors to 29 percent (6-for-21) and 32 percent for the contest. UNCG lost the battle on the glass (41-35) but corralled 13 offensive boards. The Spartans forced 15 turnovers and lead the game with 10 steals.
WCU finished the game shooting 82 percent from the free throw line (31-for-38), including 26-for-33 in the second half. Trey Sumler led the Catamounts with 17 points with 11 coming from the free throw line.
Western Carolina came out of the gate and opened to an early 5-2 lead at the first media timeout as the game started slowly with Tom Tankelewicz hitting an early three-pointer. Sophomore Nicholas Paulos (Salt Lake City, Utah/New Hampton School) got the Spartans on track as he converted a four-point play to give UNCG its first lead on the way to an 8-5 advantage.
UNCG responded with a 10-2 run that was started by freshman forward Kayel Locke (Owings Mill, Md./McDonogh) scoring off an offensive rebound. Armstrong scored four points in the run and junior David Williams (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) added a pair of baskets in the paint as UNCG scored 11 second-chance points in the first half as it grabbed eight offensive rebounds.
The Spartans connected on 31.0 percent (9-of-29) from the field and 25 percent (2-of-8) from three-point land in the first half. Paulos led team with seven points in a team-high 18 minutes of play while Armstrong added six points. Western Carolina shot 34.6 percent (9-of-26) from the field and just 14.3 percent (1-of-7) from long range. King scored six points for the Catamounts while Preston Ross added six points off the bench.
The Blue and Gold built a six point advantage after a 9-2 run in the second half to take a 36-30 lead. Williams converted on a fast break layup with just nine minutes remaining to increase the Spartan lead to 41-35. Western Carolina tied the game at 45-45 after a layup from Tawaski King at the five minute mark.
Down the stretch both teams would battle as the game was tied three times, including a clutch three from Armstrong to knot the score at 48-48 with two minutes to play. Western Carolina regained the lead for good after two free throws from freshman Mike Brown. The Catamounts finished the game hitting 14-for-18 from the free throw line to seal the victory.
The Spartans will conclude their two-game SoCon road swing Monday night as they travel to Boone, N.C., for a meeting against Appalachian State at 7 p.m.