Men's Basketball Rallies To Stun Chattanooga At SoCon Tournament
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The 10th seeded UNCG men's basketball team rallied from an 11-point second half deficit, closing the game on a 31-14 run over the final 9:44 of the game to stun seventh-seeded Chattanooga 87-81 in the first round of the 2013 Southern Conference Tournament at the U.S. Cellular Center in downtown Asheville. The victory advances the Spartans to the quarterfinals of the SoCon Tournament and will face second-seeded Elon Saturday night at 6 p.m. on ESPN3.com.
"I was really proud of our guys tonight," head coach Wes Miller said. "We fought, we competed and never wavered, which is something we have dealt with all year. When things haven't gone well or we faced adversity this year, we have been the team that has given in, but tonight we never for one second looked like we were ready to give in. I felt togetherness with this group that I haven't felt all this year. Tonight was a great team effort which got us the win."
Senior guard Derrell Armstrong (Mechanicsville, Md./Allegany CC) ignited the Spartans' comeback as he scored 22 of his 25 points in the second half, including 13 points in the final 9:44 of the game as UNCG turned an 11-point deficit into a seven-point victory. Armstrong connected on 9-of-13 from the field and 4-of-5 from three-point land while also grabbing a game-high eight rebounds.
Junior Trevis Simpson (Douglas, Ga./Coffee) added 17 points, 13 of which came in the second half, while also dishing out a career-high five assists. Sophomore Nicholas Paulos (Salt Lake City, Utah/New Hamptons School) added 11 points off the bench while freshman Kayel Locke (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh) chipped in 10 points as four Spartans reached double figures in the victory.
UNCG out-scored the Mocs 55-38 in the second half as it shot 58.6 percent (17-of-29) from the field in the half and hit 72.7 percent (8-of-11) from three-point land in the decisive half. The Spartans, who were out-rebounded 21-9 in the first half, reversed that trend in the second half as they out-hustled Chattanooga for a 22-13 edge on the glass in the final 20 minutes of play.
Additionally, the UNCG defense stepped up and held the Mocs to just 1-of-10 (10%) shooting from three-point land in the second half and just 43.3 percent (13-of-30) from the field. Z. Mason led Chattanooga with 20 points and eight rebounds but was limited to only seven points in the second half.
"I feel great about our team after the win but this is tournament time, and there is no time for celebration," Miller said. "We didn't come here for just one game so our focus is already on Elon tomorrow night."
Chattanooga (13-19) took a 67-56 lead with just over 10 minutes left in the game as Mason hit a 15-foot jump shot. The Spartans answered with a 14-1 lead to take their first lead of the night at 70-68, during which Chattanooga was forced into two timeouts.
Armstrong started the run with a three-pointer while Paulos also hit from distance to narrow the gap to four points at 68-64. Junior forward David Williams (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) kept the momentum going as he took a run-out off a rebound and converted an old-fashioned three-point play to pull UNCG within one at 68-67 with 7:32 left.
The Spartans held Chattanooga off the scoreboard on the ensuing possession before freshman guard Jordan Potts (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) stepped up and hit one of the biggest shots of the game, nailing a three-pointer for his only field goal of the game giving the Spartans a 70-68 lead with 6:58 left.
After a Chattanooga free throw, Armstrong went back to work as he scored nine straight points for UNCG, including a three-pointer that put the Spartans in front 79-73. His run of nine points came over a stretch 1:48 and cemented the Spartans' lead for good. Senior guard Korey Van Dussen (Zeeland, Mich./Zeeland East) kept the Spartans' firing offensively as he hit a deep three-pointer from the corner off an assist from Williams as Chattanooga went into a zone defense.
The Spartans extended their lead to 83-74 with 2:55 left, but Chattanooga had one final push in it scoring seven straight to cut the lead to 83-81. The Mocs went to the full court press and force a pair of turnovers while White nailed a three-pointer off a flurry of action.
Chattanooga missed a potential game-tying basket by Mason and then wildly fouled off the ball trying to send Williams to the line. The Mocs were correctly called for an intentional fall away from the action. Williams made the Mocs pay as he hit both free throws for an 85-81 lead with 25 seconds left and the Spartans kept the ball. Chattanooga missed a pair of three-pointers in the final 22 seconds to seal the victory for the Spartans.
Williams finished the night with seven points and six rebounds while also handing out two assists. He hit his final three free throws down the stretch in big situations, all while battling foul trouble the entire game as he was limited to just 18 minutes of action. Van Dussen added seven points, four rebounds and three assists while fifth-year senior Kelvin McNeil (Newport News, Va./Delaware) chipped in seven points and four rebounds.
In the first half, Chattanooga came out of the gate and opened on a 12-2 run forcing the Spartans into an early timeout. The Mocs were led by their post play as Z. Mason and Drazen Zlovaric each scored four points in the early run. Chattanooga continued to control play extending the lead to 18-7 before the Spartans started to slow the momentum.
Paulos got the Spartans on track as he nailed his first three-point attempt of the half Locke scored in the paint to pull UNCG within six at 18-12. Once again Chattanooga extended its lead to double figures as Ronrico White scored 11 points in the first half, including hitting all three three-pointers he took in the opening frame. The Spartans cut the lead to 33-27 when White went to the bench with two fouls but the Mocs closed the half on a 10-5 run to take a 43-32 lead into the locker room.
The Spartans connected on 46.2 percent (12-of-26) from the field and just 43.1 percent (3-of-13) from long range in the half. UNCG also struggled at the charity stripe hitting just 5-of-11 (45.5%) in the opening frame. Chattanooga connected on 56 percent (14-of-25) from the field, 50 percent (5-of-10) from three-point land and 71.4 percent (10-of-14) from the free throw line in the opening half.
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