GREENSBORO, N.C. – The UNCG men's basketball team suffered a physical 70-68 loss to Southern Conference foe Western Carolina Thursday night at the Greensboro Coliseum. The loss drops the Spartans to 5-8 in SoCon play this season while the Catamounts improve to 8-5 on the year, moving into sole possession of second place in the North Division.
The game was won on the glass as Western Carolina held a 41-30 edge over the Spartans, including grabbing 16 offensive rebounds. The Catamounts turned those second chances into 19 points, including some pivotal possessions down the stretch of the game. Additionally, the two teams combined for 52 free throw attempts in the physical contest with Western Carolina hitting 20-of-27 and UNCG connecting on 19-of-25.
"Western Carolina is an extremely physical team" head coach Wes Miller said. "They beat us on the glass the last five minutes up there earlier in the year and tonight they consistently beat us on the glass. We knew a key to the game was we had to be physical and tough on loose balls, especially off the back board, and I didn't think we did a good job of executing that tonight."
UNCG connected on 43.8 percent (21-of-48) from the field but hit 33.3 percent (7-of-21) from long range. Senior guard Derrell Armstrong (Mechanicsville, Md./Allegany CC) led four Spartans in double figures in the loss as he scored 18 points, 15 of which came in the second half. Sophomore Nicholas Paulos (Salt Lake City, Utah/New Hampton School) added 16 points off the bench in 18 minutes of action while junior guard Trevis Simpson (Douglas, Ga./Coffee) scored 16 points, but only three in the second half.
Western Carolina connected on 37.3 percent (22-of-59) from the field and 35.3 percent (6-of-17) from long range. Trey Sumler led all scorers with 21 points, including 7-of-8 shooting from the free throw line, while Tawaski King added 13 points and Brandon Boggs chipped in 11 points.
The Spartans and Catamounts battled back and forth for most of the physical first half as the game opened to a 16-16 tie just eight minutes into the half. Junior forward David Williams (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) was the offensive catalyst in the early going as he scored eight quick points, including hitting 4-of-4 from the free throw line. Western Carolina opened up the biggest lead of the half at 27-21 when Sumler hit a jumper off a Spartan turnover.
UNCG regrouped and closed the final 5:10 of the half on a 13-4 run to take a 34-31 lead into the locker room. Paulos started the run as he hit three free throws after being fouled on a long distance shot. Simpson scored eight of the Spartans' final 13 points in the half, including back-to-back three-pointers to give UNCG the lead at the halftime break.
The Spartans connected on 47.8 percent (11-of-23) from the field and 44.4 percent (4-of-9) from three-point land. UNCG also hit 8-of-11 free throws (72.7%) in the opening frame to help compensate for an 18-12 disadvantage on the glass. Simpson led all scorers with 13 points in the half while Williams finished with 10 points.
Western Carolina connected on 40 percent (12-of-30) from the field and just 28.6 percent (2-of-7) from three-point land. Sumler led the Catamounts with 11 points while King added seven points and four rebounds in the opening half.
After Boggs narrowed the gap to 40-39 at the 15:35 mark of the second half, Paulos scored nine of 10 points for the Spartans as they pushed their lead to 50-44. He connected on a pair of three-pointers before converting an old-fashioned three-point play in transition as freshman Jordan Potts (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) pushed the pace in the attack.
Western Carolina responded with an 18-5 run to take the lead back at 62-57 on a King basket in the paint. Mike Brown got the Catamounts going with a pair of three-pointers in the run before Sumler nailed a long distance shot as the shot clock was winding down to give WCU the lead.
The Spartans kept battling as they tied the game at 63-63 when Armstrong scored four straight points knotting the game at 3:30 left. Boggs put the Catamounts up two with a pair of free throws before freshman Kayel Locke (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh) hit just one of two keeping WCU in the lead.
Armstrong again triggered the attack as he was fouled and hit two free throws to give UNCG a 66-65 lead with 1:31 left. Western Carolina was sent right back to the free throw line though as a foul was called off the ball sending Tom Tankelewicz to the line where he hit to giving the Catamounts the lead back for good.
After WCU hit one free throw, the Spartans had a good look to tie the game, but Armstrong runner in the lane rolled off the rim. Sumler hit two free throws on the ensuing possession before Paulos scored on a put-back to trim the deficit to 70-68 with seven seconds left. King missed both free throws with 2.9 seconds left but without a timeout the Spartans were unable to get a shot off at the buzzer.
Williams finished the game with 10 points in the loss while also grabbing four rebounds and posting two steals in 30 minutes of action. Senior guard Korey Van Dussen (Zeeland, Mich./Zeeland East) returned to action for the first time since Dec. 31 (injury) and played 17 minutes off the bench posting two steals and handing out an assist.
The Spartans wrap up their home week Sunday afternoon hosting SoCon rival Appalachian State. Game time is set for 2 p.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum.
- UNCG -