GREENSBORO, N.C. – Junior guard Trevis Simpson (Douglas, Ga./Coffee) scored a season-high 30 points Thursday night, lifting the UNCG men's basketball team past Southern Conference North Division leading Samford 66-64 at the Greensboro Coliseum. Simpson scored the 22 of the Spartans' 27 second half points, including their final 14 points of the game over an eight-minute stretch to improve UNCG to 3-4 in league play while Samford falls to 5-2.
"I feel great for our guys as we desperately needed to win a close game," head coach Wes Miller said. "We needed to win a one-possession game for our confidence as we have lost so many one or two possession games this season. We needed to win a close game and win by getting a defensive stop at the end because once this team knows it can do those things, we can be a really dangerous team."
Simpson connected on 9-of-21 from the field and hit 10-of-12 free throws for his second career game of at least 30 points (36 points against Miami, 1/2/12). His 30-point effort is the second highest by a SoCon player this season, while his 22-point second half was the best half of the year by a Spartan. His last points came at the free throw line with 2:13 left to put UNCG in front 66-61.
"I just wanted to be aggressive tonight," Simpson said. "Coach was calling plays to get me in great positions to score and my teammates were screening to get me open on the offensive end while also getting stops on defense so I could keep my rhythm going. It was a team effort as they were working to get me the ball once I got going in the second half."
The Bulldogs, who entered the game with a 5-1 league record, were thwarted by Spartans down the stretch as UNCG played great defense on Samford's final possession and denying the visitors a fifth-straight victory. The Bulldogs had the ball down two at 66-64 with 22 seconds left in the game and were only able to get one shot off down the stretch, a long contested three-pointer. Samford's final gasp came with 2.7 seconds left but sophomore Nicholas Paulos (Salt Lake City, Utah/New Hampton School) stole the inbounds pass to seal the victory.
Senior guard Derrell Armstrong (Mechanicsville, Md./Allegany CC) chipped in nine points while freshman forward Kayel Locke (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh) paced UNCG on the glass with nine rebounds (four offensive). As for Samford, the Bulldogs received double-figure scoring efforts from four players, including a team-high 19 from Tim Williams, but only five Samford players were able to net points in the contest. Conversely, the Spartans saw eight players put their names into the scorebook.
The Blue and Gold ended up with the overall advantage in rebounds 39-35 and were able to pull down 12 offensive caroms. The shooting performances were virtually even as both squads took 55 attempts from the field. The Bulldogs racked up 22 baskets while UNCG drained 21 field goals. The Spartans built a distinct advantage at the foul line, nailing 20-of-29 free throw attempts (69%) as compared to a 13-for-18 (72.2%) showing for Samford.
The Spartans came out in the first half and played with energy on both ends of the floor from the tip-off as they jumped out to a 23-11 lead. Simpson and freshman Jordan Potts (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) paced the attack early with five points apiece while Paulos hit three free throws to cap the early start.
After UNCG opened to a 36-23 lead at the 4:02 mark of the first half, Samford responded with 11 straight points to narrow the gap to just 36-34 with 23 seconds left in the half. Tyler Hood scored seven of the 11 points in the run, including converting a four-point play to ignite the surge.
Armstrong slowed the Bulldogs' momentum on the final possession of the first half as he nailed a three-pointer just before the buzzer to send UNCG into the locker room with a 39-34 lead.
The Spartans connected on 41.9 percent (13-of-31) from the field and 42.9 percent (3-of-7) from long range. UNCG also held a distinct advantage at the charity stripe as its aggressive play led to a 17-7 advantage in free throw attempts. Armstrong led the Spartans with nine first half points while Simpson posted eight points in the opening frame. Samford connected on 40 percent (12-of-30) from the field and hit 4-of-12 (33.3%) from long range. Hood scored 12 points off the bench, including three three-pointers, while Tim Williams added 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting in the half.
The second half saw a back-and-froth affair with the Spartans and Simpson extending a lead to multiple possessions on numerous occasions only to see Samford battle back to pull even or within a point. UNCG took a 43-46 lead just under two minutes in as Simpson scored four early points but the Bulldogs rallied to narrow the deficit to 48-47 as Williams and Hood scored on back-to-back possessions.
UNCG again put some distance between itself and Samford at 55-50, but the Bulldogs scored five straight to tie the game for the first and only time in the second half at 55-55 with 6:07 remaining as Will Cook hit a three-pointer and Williams scored in the paint. Simpson had the answer though as he scored six straight to extend the lead back to six at 61-55.
After the Bulldogs again answered, UNCG too its final multiple-possession lead at 66-61 when Simpson hit two free throws for the Spartans final points. Clide Geffrard Jr. hit a bit three-pointer at the 1:23 mark to trim the lead down to two points but UNCG was able to hold the Bulldogs off the board the rest of the way to secure the victory.
The Spartans return to action Sunday afternoon as they host Chattanooga in SoCon play. Game time Sunday is set for 2 p.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum.
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