The UNCW Seahawks overran the Spartans at the Coliseum opener tonight.
My house is a UNCW/UNCG house divided. Both PJ and I got our undergrad degrees at UNCW. I now have a degree and am working on a second from UNCG. We went into the game tonight wearing different loyalties. PJ with the UNCW shirt and me in my UNCG Blue and Gold. PJ came out on the winning end of this divide tonight- the W beat the G 84-72.
There was plenty wrong from lack of hustle to only making 4-22 three pointers (18%- to UNCW’s 62%). Senior Nick Paulos was in a three drought. He tried to work his way out of it on the court to no avail. It took until about 2 minutes into the second half for the Spartans to wake up and drive the ball on the court. You can’t win games if you only hustle in the second half!
There were a few bright spots. Both RJ White and Tavon Saddler had great blocks. And RJ executed a great steal and lay up. When he took the ball and sprinted down the court I thought I was looking at a quick point guard vs a solid center (please see this video from my favorite point guard- Ty Lawson for comparison)
Overall, the Spartans were sluggish and looking for a foothold the entire night. There are flashes of good to keep you watching, but this teams needs to gel before they face the Heels in December. They only connected on 43% of their field goals tonight and were a paltry 60% from the free throw line. To keep it in perspective, the lost by 12 and left 13 free throw points unaccounted for. Diante Baldwin is out with a knee injury- I hope he heals quickly we could use his ball handling skills on the court!
UNCG opened the season at home in Fleming Gym against the Chowan Hawks with a 76-62 win. It wasn’t pretty, with Coach Miller saying, “I’m just glad we came out with a win.” But it’s hard to lay blame with either side- this ugly game came thanks to the refs. A total of 60 fouls were called and the players had a hard time finding a rhythm with the whistle going off so much.
Warming up, the Hawks had players with nice shots and during the game they executed clean, fast plays, but the Spartans took an early lead. Chowan tied the game twice, but could never get an upper hand. Part of that had to do with the four players that fouled out, but (true to the name of this blog) a large part was due to the lackluster showing on the free throw line- 56%. They left 14 points on the stripe. Incidentally, 14 points is what it would have taken them to push this game into overtime. Games are won and lost at the line.
UNCG is a young team, with only two seniors, and they need to find their rhythm as a unit. Granted, that is hard to do when the refs interfere with the whistle as much as they did tonight! (60 fouls!!) They started the game strong, but need to finish just as strong. That will come with time, but the team that played tonight is not ready to face the Tarheels. Not that the Heels looked exceptionally stellar in their 76-60 win over NCCU tonight.
The Spartans left the first half against the Hawks with a comfortable 44-25 lead. The first 30 seconds of the second half found Chowan scoring on a layup and a free throw and UNCG accruing two quick fouls. The fun didn’t stop there. Both sides kept getting whistled (35 fouls in the second half), but from 17:08 to 16:52- 16 seconds- UNCG got three fouls in a row- a foul every 5.3 seconds. Miller kept his cool, but there were times when arguing these whistles would have made me feel better. Every Spartan that got minutes during this game had at least two fouls: Locke- 5 (and an elbow injury); White- 4 (and concerns about both legs. He left the game limping); Saddler- 4; Byrd- 4; Dickinson- 4 (He comes to us from Loyola Marymount with Division I experience- I’d just prefer MORE points than fouls).
Overall, we were acceptable from the field (37.5% to Chowan’s 44.2%), but where we need to be in terms of free throws (77% to Chowan’s 56%). UNCG connected on 28 of 36 free throws. I know it is a new season so I will lay it out again. If you are playing college ball, 75% of free throws, minimum, should be made. This is a skill- practice it. There were 8 points left on the court. Players should be hungry for those points.
Stand out Spartans included Saddler and White. Saddler ended the night with 21 points, 5 steals, and 10 of 12 from the charity stripe (though his FT shot is still has unpolished as ever). RJ White followed with 20 points and 9 rebounds (so close to a double-double) and 5/8 FT.
Two Spartans caught my attention- senior Jamal Mitchell (#35) made 1-1 FG, 1-1 Three, and 2-2 FT. Solid numbers, but in his 12 minutes on the court he played with a calm intensity and showed good leadership and communication skills. Clay Byrd (#30), a sophomore, had his first career start today (perhaps because Baldwin didn’t play). He showed good hustle and played some smart ball, hopefully earning more playing time this season.
Basketball season has started! We face UNCW (my undergrad institution) on Tuesday at the Greensboro Coliseum. I like playing in Fleming, but I’m ready for my usual seats in Section 109!
The air has a note of crispness and it snowed in the mountains today. But more importantly, it is Homecoming at UNCG. For many that means the bonfire or the soccer game, but I get most excited to pick up my basketball season tickets!
This is a great time of year! Even though dook has been predicted to lead the ACC and UNCG is listed at a respectable 6th for the newly reorganized SoCon, right now anything is possible. Teams are healthy, players are motivated, and it remains to be seen who will be the this year’s Cinderella– like last year’s Mercer or Florida Gulf Coast from two years ago. I’m ready to hear the squeak of shoes on the court and cheer for the game in person and on TV. Just two more weeks for UNCG’s home opener!