GREENSBORO, N.C. - UNC Greensboro scored a season-high 48 points in the first half to open up a big lead and then had to hold off a late charge as UNCG topped Furman, 88-78, in Southern Conference men's basketball action at the Greensboro Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.
Koivisto became the 17th player in school history to record 1,000 career points in the process. He hit a jumper from the right side off Kyle Randall's inbound pass with 11:52 left in the first half to give himself 1,001 points for his career. The senior from Vantaa, Finland who got to play in front of his father Saturday for the first time since enrolling at UNCG, now has 1,005 for his career.
Koivisto and Brian Cole each had 14 points to lead the Spartans (3-12, 2-2 SoCon), while Pete Brown tied a career-high with 12 points. Brandon Evans and Ben Stywall each chipped in 11 and Kyle Randall had 10 to make it the first time six Spartans have scored in double figures since December 16, 2004 against Guilford College. Cole also had a career-high with eight rebounds to lead UNCG on the boards.
In a game that saw 60 combined fouls and 91 free throws taken, the Spartans set a new school record with 54 free throw attempts. The previous school record was 49 attempts against Chicago State on February 20, 1993. The 54 attempts by UNCG were the eighth-highest total in Southern Conference history and the most since Davidson went to the line 57 times against The Citadel on January 26, 1985.
Amu Saaka had a game-high 31 points for the Paladins (8-8, 2-2 SoCon), which is the most an opponent has scored on the Spartans this season. Bryson Barnes also scored in double figures with 15 points for the visitors.
Although the Spartans controlled most of the game and led by 17 at the half, Furman continued to chip away at the UNCG lead throughout the second half. UNCG didn't help its cause, either, missing seven of 12 free throw attempts during a 25-7 run by the Paladins. Furman pulled within six at 77-71 on a dunk by Saaka to cap the run with just under four minutes remaining.
After UNCG extended its lead back to nine points on a Randall free throw, the Paladins' Darryl Evans hit a 3-pointer with 1:40 remaining to pull within six again at 80-74. That was as close as Furman would get the rest of the evening, however, as UNCG regrouped at the line and made all six of its final free throws and added in a layup to secure the victory.
The win was UNCG's first in its new home at the Coliseum. The Spartans had lost eight straight at home this season - four of those against Atlantic Coast Conference schools. Sprinkling in occasional appearances at the Coliseum while playing its home games at Fleming Gym, UNCG had lost 14 straight at the Coliseum going back to a January 16, 2002 win over cross-town school North Carolina A&T, 85-67.
"It feels good," said Brown. "We kind of felt like maybe there was a little cloud hanging over us (having not won at home this season). It definitely feels good to get one."
The Spartans took control from the opening tip as they grabbed a 7-0 lead in less than three minutes, thanks to five early points from Koivisto. UNCG continued to stretch that margin to 22-7 on another jumper by Koivisto.
The Spartans continued to hound the Paladins on the defensive end as they limited Furman to just 28.6 percent shooting before the break. The Paladins made just eight of their 28 field goals in the first half, including just 2-of-13 from behind the arc. They didn't break into double figures until just under 10 minutes remained in the half and at the under 12-minute media timeout had more fouls (eight) than points (seven).
UNCG shot 48.5 percent in the opening stanza to take a 48-31 lead into the locker room at the break. The Spartans were able to outrebound the Paladins 27-15 in the first half and had seven assists to just three turnovers. UNCG finished with a season-low nine turnovers and outrebounded the Paladins, 47-36, for the afternoon.
The Spartans continue their stretch of five games in 10 days as they travel to Chattanooga on Monday for a 7 p.m. contest.
UNCG 88, FURMAN 78
FURMAN (8-7, 2-2)
Amu Saaka 9-22 12-17 31; Bryson Barnes 5-9 2-2 15; Justin Dehm 2-6 2-2 7; Brandon Sebirumbi 2-2 2-2 6; Darryl Evans 2-5 1-2 6; Colin Reddick 1-2 3-4 5; Neil Duval 1-2 3-4 5; Chris Toler 1-1 0-0 2; Noah States 0-2 1-4 1; Jordan Miller 0-10 0-0 0. Totals 23-61 26-37 78.
UNCG (3-12, 2-2)
Brian Cole 6-8 2-2 14; Mikko Koivisto 4-11 4-4 14; Pete Brown 5-8 2-6 12; Brandon Evans 3-5 5-13 11; Ben Stywall 1-4 9-14 11; Kyle Randall 1-6 8-10 10; Kendall Toney 3-7 1-3 8; Korey Van Dussen 3-4 0-0 6; Darrius Sellers 0-0 2-2 2; Elhanan Bone 0-2 0-0 0; Montel Smith 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 26-57 33-54 88.
Halftime: UNCG 48-31. 3-point goals--Furman 6-29 (Bryson Barnes 3-6; Amu Saaka 1-7; Justin Dehm 1-5; Darryl Evans 1-4; Noah States 0-1; Jordan Miller 0-6), UNCG 3-12 (Mikko Koivisto 2-8; Kendall Toney 1-2; Kyle Randall 0-1; Montel Smith 0-1). Fouled out--Furman-Brandon Sebirumbi, UNCG-None. Rebounds--Furman 36 (Amu Saaka 10), UNCG 47 (Brian Cole 8). Assists--Furman 10 (Amu Saaka 3; Darryl Evans 3), UNCG 13 (Kyle Randall 5). Total fouls--Furman 32, UNCG 28. Technical fouls--Furman-None, UNCG-None. A-1979
FREE THROWS: Stywall will have to wait until Monday for his shot at 1,000 career points. He is now at 998 for his career... UNCG's 33 free throws made is the tied for the second-most in school history, equaling the Marshall overtime loss on opening day in November 2006. The record is 35 against Elon in Feburary 2007... All three of UNCG's wins this season have come with 70 or more points. On the flip side, all 12 losses have come with less than 70 points... The hometown team has won 15 of 16 meetings in the series. UNCG leads the series, 9-8 (One game was played in North Charleston, S.C.)... Furman features two coaches that have ties to Mike Dement. Jeff Jackson's first position as an assistant coach was on the same staff that Mike Dement was on as an assistant at Cornell. In addition, David Willson was a walk-on for Mike Dement's squad at SMU.