This past week saw UNCG’s basketball teams participate in the Southern Conference Tournament where the fourth seeded women’s squad fell to the number one seed and eventual tournament champion UT Chattanooga and the men’s trilogy with ETSU was decided by one shot.
UNCG 53 CHATT 75
After overcoming a 17 point deficit to beat Furman 68-63 in the quarterfinal, the Spartans went on to face the top seeded Chattanooga Mocs in the conference semifinals.
Both teams started out at equal strength as freshman Nadine Soliman scored the first seven points of the game for the Spartans as UNCG was tied 7-7 over five minutes into the first quarter. Chattanooga pulled out to a 14-9 lead before the Spartans scored the last 4 points of the quarter to close the opening frame only down one, 14-13.
After a basket with 5:32 in the second quarter that pull UNCG within two at 21-19, the Mocs responded with an 8-1 run to take a 29-21 lead. The Spartans pulled within five in the final minute of the half but free throws would give the Chattanooga a 31-24 lead at halftime.
Chattanooga came out of the locker room and broke the game open early in the second half with a 9-1 run to start, extending the lead to 40-25.
The Mocs would pad the lead to as much as 26 points in the fourth quarter as the Mocs had their best shooting quarter of the game, connecting on 58.3 percent from the field in the fourth quarter while hitting 11-of-13 free throws.
Nadine Soliman lead all scorers with 26 points en route to a Second Team All-Tournament selection. Freshman Mangela Ngandjui joins Soliman in the Second Team as well.
In terms of regular season awards, Head Coach Trina Patterson was named the SoCon Coach of the Year for leading the Spartans to a 16-13 record in the regular season. Te’ja Twitty is named to the All-Freshman Team while Senior Bailey Williams was named to Third Team All-Conference. Nadine Soliman was named to the Second Team All Conference, the All-Freshman team as well as winning Freshman of the Year, leading all freshmen in the nation with a scoring average of 16.3
UNCG 74 ETSU 79
After dispatching The Citadel and Wofford in back to back close games, the championship match against East Tennessee State University would be no different. Like there two previous games against the Bucs, this would come down to the final minute.
The Spartans came out of the gate and opened to a 14-6 run early in the game as Diante Baldwin and Francis Alonso each hit back-to-back 3-pointers. Alonso the proceeded to hit back to back 3-pointers to give UNCG a 29-23 lead with 5:27 remaining. The Bucs pulled within two at 31-29, but UNCG closed the half on a 7-2 run as White scored four straight to take a 38-31 lead into the locker room.
ETSU came out of the locker room and quickly pulled even at 46-46 with a 15-8 start to the half with the Bucs’ hitting their first 3-pointer of the night to tie the game up. The teams went back-and-forth with UNCG taking a 50-48 lead on a layup from redshirt freshman James Dickey with 14:02 left in the game, but the Bucs roared back with an 18-4 run to take a 66-54 lead with 7:39 left in the game.
ETSU held a 75-65 lead with 2:03 remaining with a pair of free throws, setting the precedent for the furious finish that was to come. White started the run by hitting a 3-pointer before the Spartans’ defense came up with a stop with 47 seconds left. Alonso hit another 3-pointer with 40 seconds left to make it a 75-71 game.
As ETSU lead 77-71, Jordy Kuiper hit a desperation fall away 3-pointer with 12 seconds remaining to make it a three point. The Spartans trapped the inbound and Baldwin came up with a steal with eight seconds remaining. He got the ball to Alonso on the wing and his 3-pointer with five seconds left could have tied the game, but it rolls off the rim, much to the displeasure to the UNCG faithful and sealed the win for ETSU.
For the men’s season, with 25 wins and a regular season Conference championship, this has been the best season of Spartans basketball in recent memory. Despite the loss and the departure of seniors Diante Baldwin and RJ White, the near future of men’s basketball here looks promising.