Asheville, NC – UNCG’s quest for back-to-back Southern Conference championships fell just short on Monday night, losing to 20th-ranked Wofford in the SoCon Tournament Final 70-58. Wofford now earns the SoCon’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, while UNCG’s postseason fate has yet to be determined.
Senior guard Francis Alonso paced the Spartans with 20 points, and sophomore guard Isaiah Miller added another 19 on 8-9 shooting. Meanwhile, Fletcher Magee and Nathan Hoover both poured in 20 points apiece for the Terriers, with all of Hoover’s points coming during the second half.
Even though it was a 12-point defeat, the final score does not tell the whole story. The Spartans made it clear from the opening tip that this would not be another blowout after losing by a combined 59 points in their two previous matchups with the Terriers. In fact, the Spartans led for most of the game.
Isaiah Miller got UNCG on the board first with a transition layup, followed by a guarded Francis Alonso three. The Spaniard, who was named First-Team All-SoCon last week, scored eight of UNCG’s first 14 points.
Big man Cameron Jackson and the Wofford front court kept the Terriers in it early, scoring their first eight points in the paint. But they had no answers on defense, and after another Alonso three, Miller drove in for an and-1 that extended the Spartan lead to 17-8.
Fletcher Magee then got rolling. He drilled a tough three from the top of the key and another two minutes later capped a 9-3 Wofford run and brought the Terriers to within three points, 20-17.
UNCG again responded with seven straight points from Miller, but Wofford clawed their way back in within one possession. A late Alonso jumper gave UNCG a 31-27 lead going into halftime. It was an uncharacteristically poor offensive performance from the Terriers in the first half, which led the SoCon in field goal percentage, three point field goal percentage and scoring margin.
That changed after the intermission. Down by seven, Hoover embarked on a personal 8-0 run that gave the Terriers their first lead of the game at 40-39. Alonso put the Spartans back on top during the next possession, and freshman Angelo Allegri eventually rattled in a floater to push UNCG’s lead to 55-50 with 5:39 to go.
But Hoover would not be denied. He again scored eight straight to retake the lead. Wofford would not trail again and UNCG’s implosion was on—the Terriers finished the game on a 20-3 run to end up with a relatively comfortable win.
What had been 35 minutes of competitive, high-quality basketball was unraveled by five minutes of self-destruction. This loss, surely, will leave a sour taste in the mouth of every UNCG fan alive.
Still, it’s been a successful season for head coach Wes Miller and his team, and more is to come. The Spartans set the school record in wins this season with 28, and defeated Furman 66-62 in the SoCon Semifinals in a thrilling come-from-behind victory. UNCG will surely be invited to a postseason tournament, be it the NIT or the NCAA Tournament. The stars would need to align for UNCG to get in to the Big Dance, but it is by no means out of the question. An NIT berth is a sure bet.
For now, all these Spartans can do is wait and hope.