The UNCG Spartans basketball teams had their final games of sorts, with the women’s team finishing the season at Western Carolina and the men’s having their final game in the Fleming Gymnasium ahead of their final game of the season at the Greensboro Coliseum on Monday. For the men, the Monday night match against East Tennessee State would decide the top seed in this weekend’s tournament and the SoCon title.
UNCG 74 VMI 67
After having to push back the game to 7pm Saturday due to a team-wide illness that ran rampant amongst both the players and the coaching staff, the Spartans were tasked with pushing back the VMI Keydets in order to continue their quest for a regular season SoCon championship. The two days of missed practices didn’t show in the beginning of the first half however, as UNCG was leading VMI 18-10 in the early going. The Keydets answered back with a 18-5 run to go up 28-23 with 8:54 remaining in the opening frame. The Spartans wouldn’t be down long, as they used a 10-2 run at the end of the half to go into the locker room up 40-37. The second half was a seesaw affair, with neither team being able to gain more than a five point advantage as they were trading baskets like the New York Stock Exchange. After the game was tied at 55, UNCG went on an 8-1 run for the lead and for the last 4:21, it was a lead they would not relinquish. RJ White lead the Spartans in scoring with his third double double of the season (18 points, 10 rebounds) while Francis Alonso and James Dickey chipped in with 17 and 10 points respectively. Sophomore guard Demetrius Troy lead the team in assists with six, while committing 0 turnovers.
UNCG 73 Western Carolina 77
In their final game of the season, the Lady Spartans travelled to Cullowhee to face off with the Catamounts of Western Carolina. UNCG got out of the opening tip on a quick start, scoring the game’s first 9 points. It was a back and forth battle for the rest of the half, with the Spartans leading 16-14 after the 1st quarter and headed into the break up 27-26. The Catamounts seized the game coming into the third, outscoring UNCG 26-16 to go up 52-43 at the end of three. In the fourth, after being down as much as 14, the Spartans mounted a comeback. Led by senior guard Bailey Williams’ career high 24 points, they cut the lead down to two points with under two minutes remaining. However it was the amount of free throws (8-12 for UNCG compared to 24-36 for WCU) and the amount of turnovers (17-6) that cut the momentum in the end.
SoCon Men’s Basketball Regular Season Championship: UNCG 72, ETSU 66
Senior night. Student appreciation night. This was the scene for the final and most important game this regular season. East Tennessee State and the Spartans battled for the regular season championship and No.1 seed in the Southern Conference. For the third time in their history in the Southern Conference, (first overall championship as the other two were North Division titles) the Spartans are the No.1 in the SoCon with their 72-66 victory over the Buccaneers of East Tennessee State. Sophomore guard Francis Alonso was the leading scorer on both sides with 23 points, while seniors Diante Baldwin and RJ White capped off their final home game with a double double for White (16 points and 10 rebounds) and 13 points, six assist, and big steal in the final minute for Baldwin. The factor in the game was the outside shooting, with the blue and gold shooting 10-23 from beyond the three point arc while holding the Bucs to a 3-14 shooting from three point land. With a little more than a minute left, the Spartans held a 67-63 lead, but clutch free throw shooting down the stretch sealed the game for UNCG. With the Spartans, Furman and ETSU all tied for the best record in the conference, they will all have a share of the Southern Conference regular season championship. As seeding is concerned, the Spartans will have the Number 1 seed, while Furman and ETSU will be ranked 2 and 3 respectively in the conference tournament.
UNCG’s women will enter the SoCon conference tournament as the 4th seeded team, facing off against the Furman Paladins on March 2nd. The win gave the men a first round bye in the SoCon tournament this weekend, squaring off against the winner of Friday’s game against Western Carolina and The Citadel.