Men’s Basketball: UNCG 102-95 Citadel UNCG 67-81 Mercer
It was raining baskets in Charleston, S.C. last Thursday, and not just for the Spartans. UNCG’s men traveled to play The Citadel in what turned out to be a high-octane affair where scoring prevailed.
The early barrage of three point shots from Kayel Locke was especially memorable for Wes Miller’s offense, and Marvin Smith added the extra icing with a phenomenal dunk.
Unfortunately, the coach could not have been pleased with everything. Sloppy passes and ball handling led to an unhealthy amount of turnovers from UNCG. The defense often failed to get back in transition against a Citadel team that was looking to run.
Even with a few shaky possessions, UNCG was able to close out the first half with a 60-53 lead. It is worth noting that the Spartans have seen similar numbers on the board as final scores this year—that should be indicators for both offensive and defensive effort in this one.
Both squads tightened up their defense for the second half. The passing lanes closed and penetration to the basket was much more difficult to come by, even though the teams did stay hot from the field.
The game reached its tipping point with two minutes and ten seconds left in the second half. The score was 52-50, Spartans lead.
That is when the sophomore from Asheville, Garrett Collins, hit a clutch three pointer. Before The Citadel could respond, it was Kayel Locke with a huge steal, leading to fast break points.
From there, it was lots of fouling clock stoppage. UNCG came away with a 102-95 victory, imbuing the Southern Conference scoreboards with what looked like an NBA game.
Kayel Locke had an unforgettably efficient performance, shooting 11-14 from the field for his 30 points. He also added 8 rebounds.
Diante Baldwin played especially great as the Spartans’ point guard, scoring 23 points and dishing out 9 assists.
International presence Francis Alonso, the Spaniard, also made a substantial impact. He scored 21 points and shot with consistency from the free throw line.
It was the fourth conference win for UNCG.
Just two days later they were playing in another away contest versus Mercer, one of the top teams in the conference.
It was evident from the start why Mercer has had so much success this season. They moved the ball effectively and spaced the floor well, using screens to create openings for their teammates.
However, the Spartans did not let that intimidate them. After the previous week’s offensive onslaught, UNCG played a controlled, scrappy game with a lot of heart.
RJ White’s interior defense anchored the Spartans and the outside shooting of the likes of Marvin Smith and Francis Alonso served as their counter-attack.
At halftime, UNCG left for the locker room in sweat stained jerseys down just 35-31.
When the clock was reset and the hardwood floor re-polished, Mercer came out in attack mode, using well-paced low block screens to make RJ White work harder on the defensive end.
Unfortunately for the Spartans, the short time between scheduled matchups began to show in the energy of the team.
The effort and desire was clearly still on the floor but the Bears were simply the more energetic team on both sides of the court.
Struggles from the field and lack of focus were the bane of the Spartans offense, who had more difficulty keeping the ball as the game progressed.
Despite their relentless fight, UNCG ended up losing the game 81-67.
It was a solid played game all-around, just one that did not end in the right result for Wes Miller’s squad.
Kayel Locke had another sharp performance with 20 points, including five free throws and three scores from beyond the arc.
Francis Alonso continued his promising debut year with 14 points and six assists. His combination of slasher-style scoring, crafty playmaking, and three point marksmanship makes his jersey a prime candidate to hang in the rafters one day.
After suffering the loss to Mercer, UNCG is now 4-5 in conference play and 8-14 overall for the season.
They will try and bounce back in Greensboro against East Tennessee State, when the Spartans will play host to their second game in Fleming Gymnasium this season.