On Thursday, February 10, the Spartans of UNCG took on The Citadel Bulldogs in a men’s basketball conference battle. The Spartans, coming off a nail-biter win versus Wofford and the double-digit defeat of the Western Carolina Catamounts in their most recent contests, were looking to score a third consecutive victory. UNCG hopes to even up the season series after taking a 74-64 loss at the hands of The Citadel in Charleston, SC earlier in the season. Coming into this matchup, transfer guard De’monte Buckingham, the Spartan’s leading scorer (13.3) and rebounder (6.3), was sidelined with an ankle injury. Hayden Brown, the Bulldogs’ points and rebound leader, is coming off 35 points and 11 rebounds in his previous matchup.
Mohammed Abdulsalam scored the first of UNCG’s points by going one-of-two at the free throw line after drawing a charge on Citadel forward Stephen Clark. Guard David Maynard would cash in on two free throws on the other end of the court to give the Bulldogs the lead. Although coach Duggar Baucom’s Bulldogs raced to an early 7-5 lead, the Spartans dominated from this point onward.
Throughout the game, Mike Davis, head coach of the Spartans, told the team that the defensive intensity needed to be high. The Spartans used their aggressiveness on the defensive end to create live ball turnovers and generate transition offense. Following some stagnant offensive sets by both squads, the home team took the lid off the basket. During the first half, it was evident that UNCG’s inside presence was going to be a problem for The Citadel.
Bas Leyte was a huge part of this win, scoring 12 of his career-high 20 points in the first half. Leyte and Abdulsalam’s presence down low helped establish UNCG’s dominance in the post. UNCG outscored The Citadel 28-8 in the paint during the first half. Off the bench, Miles Jones gave the Spartans a big spark, dropping nine points and grabbing four boards as well.
The lack of scoring for The Citadel would hurt them early. Other than Hayden Brown with 12 points and Jason Roche adding another 10, the rest of the Bulldogs only accounted for a measly six more points in this half. Senior guard Kaleb Hunter helped maintain the Spartans’ lead throughout the half. He sank a big three-pointer right before the buzzer, giving him eight points in this leg of the game.
Concluding the first half, the score stood 44-28. UNCG shot 51.4% from the field and were three-for-eight from the three-point arc. Their opponents were held to a poor 29.2% from the field as well as a measly 3-of-13 from deep. The Spartans led the first half in every statistical category and looked to do much of the same in the second.
The Citadel’s shooting woes would continue into the second half, starting off with four consecutive misses. UNCG added to the lead on buckets by Abdulsalam and Hunter before Maynard drained a three to halt the early run out of the half. Junior guard Keyshaun Langley matched the three-pointer on the other end off an assist from transfer guard Dante Tracey. Langley got it going in the second half scoring eight of his 11 points during that period.
The Spartans looked to make another run on their home court as they pushed their lead to 23 points. The Spartans’ hot shooting would cool down slightly, allowing the Bulldogs to go on a 10-point run to cut the lead down to 11. UNCG would close the door on the Bulldog’s comeback attempt with solid defense and timely shooting. The UNCG Spartans would go on to win 86-66 and tie up the season series against The Citadel.
Kaleb Hunter scored 11 of his 19 points in the second half, shooting 60% from the field, and draining all four of his free-throw attempts. Bas Leyte, Kaleb Hunter, Miles Jones, and Keyshaun Langley were all in double figures for the Spartans. They used gritty defense and tenacious rebounding to keep the game out of reach.
Kaleb Hunter stated that “[at] UNCG we pride ourselves on defense” and that they were getting close to playing their best basketball right now. Their play showed this as they would have seven steals, two blocks, and out rebound the Bulldogs. When asked how he and the team feel about the rest of their conference games going forward Hunter said, “Day by day, we’re not really looking too far ahead.” He also preached hard work, humbleness, and extra work in the weight room as key factors for the team’s success in the future.