UNCG’s man of the evening is Trevis Simpson with a career high, UNCG record tying, and NCAA division tie for third in points in a game with 41. The UNCG- Chattanooga game tonight was a rough and tumble play to the end game. Trevis had a great night, but it did not feel like it was an “All Simpson- All Night” kind of game. However, Trevis was fun to watch!
UNCG got their first back to back win of the season by playing as a team, leading the Mocs 77-69. This pulls them to 4-4 in conference play, just two games behind Elon and Samford. The Spartans were together as a defensive unit guarding a fast and strong Mocs team. UNCG was moving and shooting in more of a rhythm and posted a positive assist to turnover ratio. Nick Paulos contributed 11 points and David William was active on the offense and defensive ends of the court tonight. Trevis contributed 7 three point shots to the effort. The first few minutes of the game were tenuous The Spartans missed their initial 7 shots and did not put points on the board until they made it to the free throw line. They found their feet and it turned into a fun game to watch!
Chattanooga actually led most of the statistical columns except for points off turn overs and three point shots. The Mocs shot 44% FG to the Spartans 40% and both teams were 70% from the charity stripe. The Spartans edged out Chattanooga 37% to 33% from the three.
Perhaps the most fun was the Mocs coach. He was whining to the refs for his players all game long. Once even coming over the line when the refs called UNCG’s time out. The refs were fairly generous tonight as there were places for a bench warning and I’m not so sure his tantrum at the time out call not a place for a technical foul. He was way out of line and out of place. But it did make jeering him pretty easy for the rest of the game!
One final note. What are Mocs you say? Great question, I asked the same question myself. In the 1920s, it stood for water moccasins…a scary mascot to be sure! Then, it changed to mean moccasin, like the shoe, for the 1960s and 1970s. Next, they had an exaggerated Cherokee chief as a mascot, Chief Mocanooga . At the request of the Chattanooga InterTribal Association they discontinued that mascot becoming just the Mocs and using the Tennessee state bird, the mockingbird, as their mascot. Not just any mockingbird, but one named Scrappy who dresses like a railroad conductor!
Derrick, PJ, and I have been watching UNCG basketball together for a few years now. UNCG used to play dirt cheap in Fleming Gym, but since they moved to the Big Barn (the Greensboro Coliseum for those that don’t know my G-pa) we have been buying season tickets. This year as part of the package we got a Wes Miller Bobblehead. We only got one because we by the three tickets together and it took FOREVER to arrive because of Superstorm Sandy. Three people, one bobblehead- you can see how this is a problem. Derrick is a State Fan and it has been nearly 6 years (Feb 2007) since the Pack bested the Heels, so a plan was born…
Every time UNC and NCSU meet up #WesMillerBobblehead is on the line. If NCSU wins, he goes home with Derrick. If UNC wins, he comes to the Colonna house. This is valid for conference games as well as any post season play.
We met tonight at our favorite wings spot to watch the game. State has had a good year, but I was confident Wes would come home with me. At the tipoff, the Pack were in attack mode. They grabbed the lead and would not let it go! They led by as much as 28. I’m a looong time Tarheel, so I know how Carolina likes to dawdle around in the first half and the turn on the rockets in the second. I don’t always like to watch that kind of ball, but I am used to it. This was not the smoothest game to watch for either side with plenty of loose balls and lack of hustle on the defensive ends. One surprising fact, I almost didn’t believe my own eyes, is that Roy Williams took all FIVE of his time outs. He usually forfeits one in the first and ends the game with four in his pocket (the final seconds of last year’s home game against Duke would have been a great place to use one), but I digress….
UNC pulled up close at 5 (85-80) in the last few minutes of the game, but was unable to overcome the first half deficit to win this game. Overall, the stats for UNC and NCSU were not horrible. FG shooting was UNC 46.5% and NCSU 49%. NCSU led in the 3 53% to 36%. And I do not have much to say about Free Throws. UNC shot 90% and the Pack 87%. Both teams missed shots and in a game that pulled so close in the end either team would have liked those extra points (UNC to catch up and NCSU to pad their lead), but these are the numbers that ALL teams, at the collegiate level, should put out at the line. For UNC, PJ Hairston had 19 points and for Tarheels were in double figures. For NCSU, Brown, Howell, and Leslie all had double doubles.
This is the first time since 2002 that State has beat both Dook and Carolina. These boys worked hard, but Wes is coming back to my house on Feb. 23!
As a Tarheel fan, sometimes it is hard to know what is better- a UNC win or a dook loss, but when they happen on the same day all has to be right in the world! Today, I think, the dook loss is the bigger story. I had a conference presentation in Chapel Hill today and was listening to the tail end of the game and the excellent post game reflection on NCSU radio. I know my grin stretched from ear to ear as I listened to the recap of this loss.
NCSU started the season at #6, but now are at a more comfortable and realistic #20. What will they be next week? PJ says #18, but I am going to say #15. Going into this game, they had to have a lot on their minds. The Pack is predicated to take the ACC title. This prediction has not occurred for them since 1976. Dook is a big obstacle in their way to that title (Maryland is too, but let’s focus on today). Dook also showed up at PNC arena 15-0. Everyone’s first loss has to come at some point, but the momentum of being 15-0 works in their favor. The Devils were also missing Ryan Kelly (boo-hoo). State was ready to go. The Pack took some time to warm up, but those players were attempting to set that court on fire.
The stat that caught my attention was that State was 20 for 23 from the free throw line- 87%. That is a great FT showing. They won this game 84-76, but so many times good games like this one are lost by sloppy days at the charity line. I am glad that State had their free throws in order, it makes the rest of the game so much fun to watch.
The man of the hour has to be Richard Howell. He always plays with intensity, as shown my the amount of sweat filtered by his beard, but he found another level today. He definitely took it to 11! His double double was highlighted by the 14 rebounds in the second half. He was a beast going for that ball and did not let anyone else get in his way. In the post game interview Coach Gottfried said he was playing a grown man’s game. He is not a flashy player, but wants to duke it out (ha ha pun intended) under the basket, playing low and hard. Another commentator called him the kind of junkyard dog any title contender needs. He plays with a style that would be recognized in college basketball of the past as well as any neighborhood court where the only reward is trash talking to your friends. Most importantly, it’s the grind it out style that I like to watch and talk about!
Calvin Leslie (Coach does not call him CJ) led the Pack with 25 points and 6 rebounds. Brown contributed 12 points and got all 13 of NCSU assists. The two first year players assigned to Curry, Purvis and Warren, made it hard for the Devil’s #1 shooter to completely dominate today. Those players pushed Curry hard and made him take his share of off balance twos.
There was a technical foul when Wood and Thornton exchanged words after a play, but it seemed to be a spark that the Pack needed to up their intensity, so Coach can’t be too mad about that! What I am mad about is Bruce Pearl’s post game comment that this was not an upset. What does that even mean? He tried to say that State was a good enough team to beat the Devils, so we should not be too surprised, but Mr. Pearl I do disagree. First, a #20 just beat a #1…that is an upset. Second, Duke just lost…we should all be rejoicing. Third, with the history of NCSU play (read the Sidney years) and the rebuilding they have done in the past two years…this is an upset. Fourth, this was an unbeaten team…this is an upset. Fifth, they just knocked down the national #1…this is an upset. I think the best response to this was Rodney Purvis on twitter,!!! “@statefansnation: Bruce Pearl: “This is not an upset, gentlemen”. Come one Bruce you can commentate better than that, and those that were at the desk with you- shame on you for not holding his feet to the fire. This team worked hard for this win.
Of course, UNC was on the court in Tallahassee today. They got a much needed win against the ACC defending champs FSU 77-72. PJ Hairston had a career high 23 points with McAdoo contributing 14 points and 8 rebounds. Bullock also had 8 rebounds to go with his 12 points. The Heels were an ok 11-16 (68%) from the FT line, but that is a place for UNC improvement They need all the help they can get and a little more time in free throw practice is never wasted time. This win helped keep the Heels from the second ever 0-3 ACC start in school history (it happened in 1996-97) and kept FSU from getting its first ever 3-0 start in ACC conference play.
The feel good story of the game, however, is Jackson Simmons. He celebrated is 20th birthday (remember fans these are young adults playing this game) with a career high eight points and four rebounds. He had a solid 15 minutes of play on the court. He did score, but he also set good screens, delivered good passes, and executed solid defense. What else can a kid from Webster, NC ask for?
UNCG won their contest 86-47 against DII school, and in state school, Lees McRae College (LMC). This small school (less than 1000 students) from Banner Elk, NC has had a rough season and are 0-12. Normally, I don’t want to see small schools beat up on, but UNCG really needed the energy from a win to propel them into conference play. I don’t think UNCG beat up on the Bobcats. The first half was pretty close and fun to watch, but LMC just got overwhelmed in the second half.
It is easy to get overwhelmed when #31 Nick Paulos had a career high 26 points. 8 of those were threes (just one shot shy of the UNCG record set by current Director of Basketball Operations Kevin Oleksiak). Paulos just couldn’t miss the three and Trevis offered him a great dunk that got the crowd on their feet. Good basketball will always get people excited! Paulos’ 26 points contributed to 48 overall bench points from UNCG compared to LMC’s 13. Our bench was just too deep for the Bobcats to keep up. UNCG lead in all stats except free throws. LMC hit 77% of their FT to UNCG’s 56%. Not good! FT will be important to conference play. Most of our players were pretty close in their free shots, but Kelvin McNeil. He usually has a steady hand, but last night he was 1 for 6 from the line. Everyone can have a bad night, but with numbers like that some extra practice is in order.
As usual, Armstrong and Locke were strong adding 19 points and 14 respectively. Armstrong’s hustle on the floor and willingness to dig deep to protect the ball is great for the Spartans! Locke is fun to watch now, but I can see so much growth and potential over the next few years. He is going to be a monster to go up against! I hope he turns into a big team leader!
Turning to more pressing matters…injuries. #15 Trevis Simpson did play against Davidson and LMC after sitting out the NC State game. It was a shock to see him in a warm up suit in Raleigh. Apparently, he played chicken with an automatic door at the hotel. He got an MRI that showed just overstretched tendons. We need his ability to score and leadership on the court, so perhaps walking carefully is the mantra for the rest of the season! First year player, RJ White is also out for the season with his arm in a sling. I want him to get healthy and come back roaring next year. I like the team play of White and Locke! Lastly, Korey Van Dussen was in his warm up suit last night at the LMC game. He had is sleeve pulled over his left hand and it looked like he was hiding a cast. While I can not reveal sources, I heard he got a spiral fracture in practice and had surgery on Monday. I am not sure what that means for his season, but I am sure he will be back and playing as soon as possible. We need a healthy Spartan roster so we can look forward to playing well into March!
To celebrate NYE, PJ, Derrick, and I took a trip to Raleigh to watch the Spartans play the Wolfpack. Derrick was conflicted, as a UNCG graduate student he felt the need to wear an NCSU shirt, but he did not go all out red! He also confused the man that sat beside hime by cheering for both teams.
The Spartans faced #23 NCSU without leading scorer Trevis Simpson, who is listed as injured. Without Simpson, Armstrong got his first start of the season. I’m not sure if the Pack knew that Armstrong’s hustle and drive for the ball belies his stature. He will out hustle anyone for the basketball!
The first half of the game was fast and furious, with lead changes that surprised the Wolfpack (or at least the fans that were sitting around us. The same confused fan that sat beside Derrick also had good things to say about UNC’s first half play in the concessions line.) The Spartans were playing hard and with Simpson on the bench, Wes was able to mix up the players on the court in new and unusual ways. Jordan Potts got plenty of time on the court as did Kayel Locke. This showed as UNCG had 32 points off the bench to NCSU’s 19. The hustle and team play shown by the Spartans in the first half was great. There was a behind the back pass by Van Dussen to McNeil that had all the UNCG fans in the house on their feet.
The Pack pulled away in the second half and used their size advantage to push UNCG into playing the game at their speed. UNCG never gave up with Kayel Lock scoring 21 points and Kelvin McNeil contributing his career third double double. The glaring stats for this game were UNCG’s 11.8% from three point range and only connecting with 61.5% of their free throws. NCSU made 44.4% of their threes and 77.3% of the free throws. While those numbers are less than stellar, they do not convey the hustle and drive I saw on the court tonight. UNCG lost by 21, but the Spartans were playing harder than that. The more experience this team gets playing ACC teams, the better they are going to be.
Of course, Wood and Leslie were strong forces on the court tonight, but the NCSU player I like to watch is is Howell. Is big and imposing and that beard is fantastic! Kayel Locke was matched up with Howell for most of the game and defended him head on. Locke also made some great over Howell’s head shots, so that match-up was fun on both sides of the court. Generally, the basketball in NC is in a GOOD place.