The UNCG men’s basketball team defeated the Samford Bulldogs 75-67 in front of a raucous crowd at the Greensboro Coliseum on Thursday night. It was an impressive, gritty victory from the Spartans, who were able to overcome an off-shooting night from star guard Francis Alonso to improve to 21-3 on the season and 10-1 in conference play, its best start in school history. With the defeat, Samford falls to 14-11 on the season, and 4-8 in conference play.
UNCG came out aggressively on defense, forcing Samford point guard Josh Sharkey into two early turnovers, which led to a three-pointer and a fast break layup for shooting guard Isaiah Miller. UNCG was able to maintain that same level of defensive intensity throughout the first half, with their suffocating three-quarter court press pressuring Samford into 11 turnovers.
The defensive intensity carried over to the perimeter; UNCG held Samford to 9/24 shooting from the field in the first half, and the Spartans headed into the locker room with a 35-27 lead despite Francis Alonso having zero points.
Isaiah Miller was a key contributor in the first half, compiling what stat nerds refer to as the “quintuple single.” The sophomore stuffed the stat sheet with nine points, six rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block. Alonso also did not allow his poor shooting to affect his effort on the defensive end, as he recorded two steals in the half as well.
The second half was a back-and-forth affair. Thanks to an unexpected switch to a zone defense, Samford raced out on a 12-4 run to begin the half and evened the score at 39-39. Their momentum did not last long, however, as junior guard Malik Massey entered the game after a media timeout and made an immediate impact by hitting a floater to end the run, then assisting on a Kyrin Galloway three-pointer. UNCG eventually pushed their lead back to nine, leading to a Samford timeout.
Led by Sharkey, who finished with 22 points but coughed up 11 turnovers, Samford clawed back to tie the game 59-59 with 4:02 remaining. With the home crowd now fully engaged, UNCG again responded, this time with a 13-0 tear over the next 96 seconds that featured two Miller three pointers and a thunderous putback slam from Galloway that left the Coliseum rocking.
The Spartans maintained the lead and earned the victory. Isaiah Miller finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and three steals, and Galloway added 13 more points. Four Spartans finished with at least three steals, and UNCG forced 22 Samford turnovers.
UNCG now enters the toughest stretch of its schedule, a three-game road trip that begins at Chattanooga on Saturday, then leads to Furman on Feb. 14, before ending at league-leading Wofford on Feb. 16, a game that could decide the conference regular-season champion. Still, head coach Wes Miller isn’t focused on hypotheticals.
“I’m focused on Chattanooga because that is our next opponent and after that I will be paying attention to our next opponent… There’s no sense in worrying about things you can’t control. We can control how we’re going to prepare for Chattanooga, and we’re going to do that.”
At 10-1 in conference play, UNCG still sits at second in the SoCon, 1.5 games behind Wofford and 1.5 games ahead of East Tennessee State.
Freshman wing Angelo Allegri injured his leg early in the first half, and did not return to the game. An update on his condition was not available, and he will be evaluated on Friday.