RALEIGH, N.C. – Despite missing the nation's 15th leading scorer, the UNCG men's basketball team battled No. 23 NC State tough in an 89-68 loss New Year's Eve at the PNC Arena on ESPNU. Freshman forward Kayel Locke (Owings Mill, Md./McDonogh) scored a team-high 21 points of the bench to lead the way for the Spartans, while C.J. Leslie posted 21 points for the Wolfpack who improved to 11-2 on the season.
"I was really proud of our guys' effort today," head coach Wes Miller said. "Playing without the nation's 15th leading scorer, our guys really came together competing and making plays as a team. We did a nice job as team trying to replace Trevis, as everyone stepped up their game collectively. NC State is a big-time basketball club. In my opinion, they may be the most gifted team in the country, one-through-six, and I thought we competed with them the majority of the game."
Locke fell one point shy of tying his career-high as he finished with 21 points and seven rebounds in 28 minutes of action off the bench. He connected on 10-of-17 from the field in the loss while continually going against taller defenders. Fifth-year senior Kelvin McNeil (Newport News, Va./Delaware) posted his third career double-double scoring 10 points and grabbing team-high 10 rebounds.
UNCG (2-9) connected on 43.3 percent (29-of-67) from the field but hit a season-low 11.8 percent (2-of-17) from three-point land. NC State conversely connected on 53.3 percent (32-of-60) from the field and hit 44.4 percent (8-o-18) from long range in the victory. Leslie finished with 21 points and eight rebounds as he was 8-of-14 from the field while Richard Howell posted a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds.
The Spartans played without the Southern Conference's leading in junior guard Trevis Simpson (Douglas, Ga./Coffee) at 20.3 points per game, who missed the game due to an injury. Despite the absence, the Spartans went back and forth with the Wolfpack in the first half and took a 26-23 lead with six straight points to force NC State into a timeout.
Locke pulled the Spartans within one as he scored in the post before McNeil scored on back-to-back possessions to give UNCG a three-point lead. McNeil's second basket came on the fast break after senior Korey Van Dussen (Zeeland, Mich./Zeeland East) forced a turnover at midcourt forcing the Wolfpack into a timeout.
The teams traded baskets with the Spartans owning a 32-30 lead as Nicholas Paulos (Salt Lake City, Utah/New Hampton School) got out on the break and scored in transition. NC State responded with 10 straight points to take a 40-32 lead as Scott Wood and Rodney Purvis connected on consecutive three-pointers. Locke and senior Derrell Armstrong (Mechanicsville, Md./Allegany CC) answered with two baskets before Lorenzo Brown scored at the buzzer to send the Wolfpack into the locker room with a 43-36 lead.
UNCG connected on 45.7 percent (16-of-35) from the field, despite just hitting 2-of-10 from three-point land. The Spartans out-rebounded the Wolfpack by an 18-13 margin, including eight offensive boards as they scored nine second-chance baskets. Locke led the way with 12 points and six rebounds off the bench as he was 6-of-9 from the field while McNeil added eight points.
NC State connected on 59.3 percent (16-of-27) from the field and 71.4 percent (5-of-7) from three-point land in the first half. C.J. Leslie led the Wolfpack with 12 points while Brown chipped in eight points and four assists.
NC State came out of the halftime break and after an early basket by McNeil narrowed the gap to five points, the Wolfpack posted a 12-2 run to take a 55-40 lead. Leslie and Wood each scored five points in the run to give the Wolfpack a double-digit lead.
NC State out-scored the Spartans 46-32 in the second half as they out-rebounded UNCG 24-16 in the half while shooting 48.5 percent (16-of-33) from the field. The Spartans missed all seven three-point attempts in the second half and connected on just 6-of-11 (54.5 percent) from the charity stripe.
Armstrong finished the game with 16 points in his first start of the season as he was 5-of-13 from the field and hit all five of his free throws. Freshman guard Jordan Potts (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) scored a career-high seven points off the bench as he played a career-high 14 minutes in Simpson's absence.
Brown added 15 points and a game-high nine assists for the Wolfpack who placed five players in double figures scoring. Wood chipped in 15 points while Warren added 13 points off the bench to round out the NC State players with at least 10 points.
The Spartans return to Southern Conference play Saturday as they travel to preseason favorite and defending SoCon champion Davidson.
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