The UNCG men’s basketball team’s season came to a disappointing end on Saturday afternoon as Lipscomb (27-7) thrashed UNCG (29-7) in the second round of the NIT, 86-69. Rob Marberry paced the Bisons with 24 points on 12-13 shooting, and Francis Alonso led the Spartans with 27 points in his final game in a UNCG uniform.
The afternoon started out promisingly for the Spartans. UNCG point guard Isaiah Miller snagged the tip-off and sped to the basket for the easy layup, then Alonso swished his first shot of the day, a three that sent the packed Coliseum into a frenzy.
But once Lipscomb got going, they were nigh-unstoppable. The Bisons opened by shooting 6-19 but went 26-42 after that—good for nearly 62 percent. While Lipscomb executed on offense, some untimely defensive lapses by UNCG gave the Bisons all they needed to switch into sixth gear.
“We had a lot of mental errors on defense, coming out of our press,” senior point guard Demetrius Troy said following the game. “There were just a few effort plays that really deflated us. I thought we were pretty steady on defense for a majority of the first half, and towards the end, our effort started to let up, our focus started to let up.”
Still, the Blue and Gold had a chance to weather the storm before halftime. Trailing 41-35 With the final seconds ticking down, Alonso hoisted up a three that clanked off the iron. Lipscomb’s Nathan Moran caught the ball and sprinted down court for the buzzer-beating lay-in. What could’ve been the momentum swing UNCG needed instead resulted in two more points for Lipscomb.
“It’s a six-point game. We’re trying to get the last shot,” head coach Wes Miller said of the sequence. “Now, there’s enough of a differential [in the shot clock] that we’re going to at least have to get our defense set… we get a good look at the top of the floor for Francis, missed that off the back rim, miss the loose ball. It could’ve gone to three if that goes in.”
The Bisons kept their foot on the gas in the second, making five of their first six to stretch the lead to 59-42. Despite a furious effort from UNCG, with Spartans diving head-first for loose balls, they simply couldn’t make buy a bucket, especially from distance. UNCG shot an abysmal 5-28 from three. With ten minutes left, they were 2-20.
It wasn’t much better on defense. James Dickey spent most of the game on the bench in foul trouble, opening up Lipscomb’s post game as they continued to pour it on. The Bisons’ lead eventually grew to 84-55. The Coliseum began emptying out. The remaining fans sat in stunned silence.
If Demetrius Troy and Francis Alonso started jogging back on defense down 29 points, no one could really blame them. They were, frankly, getting humiliated in their final collegiate game in a tournament they were projected to win. They could’ve quit. But they didn’t.
UNCG closed on a 14-2 run to make the final score a little more respectable. Francis Alonso nailed his final shot, a three-pointer from the wing, right in front of Wes Miller.
Troy and Alonso both received standing ovations when they checked out in the final minutes. Senior reserve Lloyd Burgess got some playing time, as did fan-favorite Ryan Tankelewicz. The final horn sounded as Lipscomb advanced to the NIT quarterfinals, where they will either play at N.C. State or vs Harvard.
As for the Spartans, a long offseason awaits. With Alonso and Troy graduating, there will be some questions regarding UNCG’s backcourt. Expectations will be lower while Wes Miller reloads, but UNCG now has a foundation in place. As long as Miller is the head coach, the G will be contenders.