Strong opener: Spartans top Wofford, 77-54, in SoCon opener
GREENSBORO, NC – Ricky Hickman came out of a shooting slump and recorded his 20th career 20-point game, finishing with a game-high 21 points as UNC Greensboro won its Southern Conference opener, 77-54, over Wofford at Fleming Gym on Monday night.
The Spartans (2-4, 1-0), just about everyone’s preseason pick to win the SoCon’s North Division, didn’t look like a team that had lost four of its first five nonconference games to open the season. On the other hand, Wofford didn’t look like a team that had beaten Cincinnati on its home floor six days earlier.
The Spartans led by as many as 31, that coming midway through the second half, and held Wofford (4-3, 0-1) below 30 percent shooting from the field for much of the night. The Terriers, who came into the game averaging 10 three-pointers per game, made eight on Monday night. The problem seemed to be inside of the arc, however, where Wofford made just 9-of-33. Overall, Wofford, which was playing its fourth straight road game, shot just 29 percent from the field.
The Terriers did play much of the night without Drew Gibson, who aggravated a hamstring injury in the opening minutes of the game. Shane Nichols, who averaged 18 points per game in two previous meetings with the Spartans, scored just five on 1-of-9 shooting from the field on Monday night.
The Terriers were led by Tyler Whatley and Eric Marshall with 11 points each. Whatley also had eight rebounds.
Kyle Hines added 13 points for UNCG, his 27th consecutive game in double figures to tie a school record set by Hickman last year. Kevin Oleksiak added a season-high 16 points, while freshman Ben Stywall grabbed a game-high 11 boards for UNCG, his second straight game with double-digit rebounds.
Hickman looked like he maybe found his shooting stroke over the Thanksgiving break. The senior from Winston-Salem, NC shot just 25 percent from the floor in his first five games this season (16-for-64), including less than 20 percent from three-point range (5-of-26). On Monday night, however, Hickman was 7-of-14 from the field, including 3-of-6 from behind the 3-point arc.
About the only thing UNCG didn’t do well on Monday was shoot free throws. The Spartans continued their ups-and-downs at the charity stripe, shooting just 17-of-30 at the foul line on Monday night.
After Wofford scored five of the first seven points of the game, the Spartans settled in. UNCG tied the game at 8-8 and then gradually opened up a five-point lead by midway through the first half. UNCG did it with defense as Wofford missed six of its next eight shots from the field after opening up the early lead. In turn, UNCG held a 19-14 lead with 10 minutes to play in the half.
Wofford shooting woes continued from there, however. The Terriers recorded just five field goals in the first 18 minutes of the contest, going nearly eight minutes between baskets at one point. Meanwhile, UNCG, while giving leading scorer Kyle Hines some rest, ran off 13 straight points to open up a 37-19 lead.
It was more of the same early in the second half for UNCG. The lead hit 20 to open the half when Hickman came up with a steal and conventional three-point play off of Wofford’s opening possession. After Dwayne Johnson drew a charge on the defensive end on the next possession, Kevin Oleksiak knocked down a 21-footer above the top of the key and the Spartans had doubled-up the Terriers, 45-22.
SIDELINES: The Nov. 27 league opener is the earliest UNCG has ever played, but it isn’t the earliest Southern Conference game ever. That actually belongs to Wofford, having opened the season with Furman a few years back on Nov. 15... The win was UNCG’s fourth-straight win in a SoCon opener. Since joining the league, UNCG is 6-4 in SoCon openers... UNCG has won six of the last seven regular season meetings with the Terriers... Wofford freshman Norm Nixon is the son of former Los Angeles Lakers star Norm Nixon, but his mother is famous, too. Nixon’s mother is Debbie Allen, Hollywood actress, including the television show “Fame”... Dwayne Johnson continued his black-and-blue streak. Johnson has drawn a charge in all six games this season.
UNCG 77, WOFFORD 54
WOFFORD (4-3, 0-1)
Marshall, Eric 2-8 5-6 11; Whatley, Tyler 5-9 1-2 11; Salters, Junior 3-7 2-2 10; Ester, Matt 2-8 0-0 6; Nichols, Shane 1-9 2-2 5; Nixon, Norm 1-3 2-4 4; Godzinsky, Corey 1-3 0-0 3; Bellebaum, Andrew 1-1 0-0 2; O’Connor, Matt 1-7 0-1 2; Lebolo, Emilio 0-0 0-0 0; Hegamin, Ralph 0-2 0-0 0; Jackson, Marcus 0-2 0-0 0; Sheehan, Adam 0-0 0-0 0; GIbson, Drew 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-59 12-17 54.
UNCG (2-4, 1-0)
Hickman, Ricky 7-14 4-9 21; Oleksiak, Kevin 6-12 2-3 16; Hines, Kyle 6-11 1-3 13; Brown, Pete 3-3 2-3 8; Johnson, Dwyane 1-2 4-4 7; Stywall, Ben 2-5 1-2 5; Toney, Kendall 2-4 0-0 4; Tooms, Bart 0-2 2-4 2; Simmons, Everson 0-1 1-2 1; Moore, Donald 0-0 0-0 0; Akinosho, Matt 0-0 0-0 0; Vlazny, Greg 0-0 0-0 0; Koivisto, Mikko 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-55 17-30 77.
Halftime: UNCG 39-22. 3-point goals--Wofford 8-26 (Estep, Matt 2-6; Salters, Junior 2-5; Marshall, Eric 2-4; Nichols, Shane 1-4; Godzinski, Corey 1-3; Jackson, Marcus 0-1; O’Connor, Matt 0-3), UNCG 6-15 (Hickman, Ricky 3-6; Oleksiak, Kevin 2-5; Johnson, Dwyane 1-1; Toney, Kendall 0-1; Tooms, Bart 0-1; Simmons, Everson 0-1). Fouled out--Wofford-Whatley, Tyler, UNCG-None. Rebounds--Wofford 40 (WHATLEY, Tyler 8; O'CONNOR, Matt 8), UNCG 40 (Stywall, Ben 11). Assists--Wofford 8 (MARSHALL, Eric 2; ESTEP, Matt 2), UNCG 14 (Hickman, Ricky 5). Total fouls--Wofford 22, UNCG 15. Technical fouls--Wofford-None, UNCG-None. A-1006
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