Loss in SoCon Tourney

This is has been a great year in UNCG basketball with a record breaking 25 wins.  Tonight’s 79-74 loss to ETSU was heartbreaking.

UNCG swept ETSU during season play and there is no love lost between these two teams.  Technical fouls and scuffles during the handshakes have been part of their meetings on the court this year.

The Spartans had the energy in the first half of this game and it disappeared at halftime and never returned.  Like so many games, however, this one was lost on the free throw line.  Those points are crucial and can swing a game as close as this.

Nonetheless, it was a great year to watch the Spartans!  In sports, like in life, you gotta shake it off and look forward to the next challenge.  And UNCG’s next challenge is a good one…NIT here comes the G!


Snowy Game vs. Western Carolina (or UNCG has a Jordan playing)

Yesterday UNCG hosted WCU for a snowy afternoon game.  The house was pretty empty but the ball was fun to watch.  While WCU tied it up twice, UNCG never trailed.  UNCG won 76-57.

The Spartans opened the second half with 31-8 run.  Francis Alonso, Diante Baldwin, and Malik Massey had solid play, but the stand out of the game was James Dickey.  He was strong under the basket rebounding and passing and a couple of put backs that got the crowd roaring.  He was 6-6 FG, but reallllly needs to work on the Free Throw shooting as he was 1-4 on the night.  In close games, those are the points that will make all the difference!

Overall, the Spartans has a great night in fast break points (17) and points off the bench (29).  Of course, points off the bench does go up when you put in your bench at about the 4 minute mark. (A great coaching decision by Wes Miller)  One Spartan that got his first bit of playing time at the Greensboro coliseum was Justin Jordan (yes, of that Jordan family).  He took the floor and got a quick three.  He only played a few minutes, but I look forward to seeing his play develop.

UNCG is back in action at ETSU on January 12.


Live by the three

Today UNCG scooped an 84-49 win from the Furman Paladins with a record setting 15 made three pointers in the game.  This win puts UNCG in a 3 way tie in the SoCon at 5-11, with Furman holding the bottom spot at 4-12.  This 35 point win is UNCG’s largest ever SoCon victory and, hopefully, puts the Spartans in the right frame of mind to finish out the season, with games at home on both Thursday and Saturday.

While I am not usually a fan of teams that live by the three because unfailingly you must also die by the three, the energy on the court today has not been present in the last few home losses.  The team I watched today shared the ball and worked to be aware of each other on the court.  Big Man RJ White looked like he was gunning for the 1 spot hitting 4 three point shots early in the first half.  The crowd thought one was fun.  When he hit two it was great and three seems like he was on a roll, but when White sunk that fourth three the crowd erupted and he gave us a smile and a dance back down the court.  While we expect Nick Paulos to hit 5-6 threes, other Spartans contributing to the effort beyond the arc included Marvin Smith (2), Diante Baldwin (1), Asad Lamot (1- this was the most unselfish play of the night), Clay Byrd (1- before he twisted his ankle and was out of the game), and perhaps the most surprising was first year player Garrett Collins (1 as well as adding 2 points inside the line during his 7 minutes on the court).

In most stats, UNCG led the way.  51% of their field goals to Furman’s 37%.  The night belonged to the three pointer with UNCG hitting 60% of their attempts to the Paladins 15%.  From the free throw line Furman edged UNCG 60 to the Spartan’s 58%.  UNCG went 7-12 from the line.  Here Baldwin and White need some remediation both going 0-2.  In close games these points really matter!  UNCG set the pace with 12 fast break points over none for Furman and Spartans added 28 from the bench (18 of those belonging to White).

G keep up the momentum into Thursday!


Christmas comes early for some schools

It seems that upsets were in the air in college basketball tonight.

Stanford upset #9 Texas in OT.  After loosing to BYU last week, Stanford was looking for redemption and it happened to be wearing orange.  With a jump shot from the free throw line in the final seconds, Chasson Randle contributed 22 points and teammate Anthony Brown added 25 more.  Texas outshot Stanford 52% to 38% in second half, but Stanford stayed in the game with offensive rebounds and 9 second chance points to the Longhorns 0.  This is the first top ten win for Stanford since 2008.

In a shocking (to me at least, I’ve not had my eye on UNLV), the Running Rebels dethrone #3 Arizona from the realm of the unbeatens.  I would describe UNLV as inconsistent at best.  They have talent, but have had some eye catching losses.  It seemed to come together for them tonight as Arizona generally fell apart.  The Wildcats struggled all around with some of their starters in foul trouble.

Another OT surprise was #11 Wichita States 1 point win against Hawaii.  I watched the beginning of this game and had I known there would be 22 lead changes, 5 in OT alone, I’d have made more of an effort to stay awake.  I thought the Shockers had this one in the bag.  The final OT play, which looked really similar to their only loss to Utah last year, let them slip by Hawaii to meet George Washington in the final.

In Women’s news, congratulations to South Carolina for topping the AP poll for the fifth straight week.  The Gamecocks are ahead of traditional powerhouses UConn (2), Texas (3), and surprisingly Stanford (16).  This is the first time the Cardinal has been out of the top ten since 2009 and the lowest they have ranked since 2006 after two surprising losses to Tennessee and Chattanooga (go SoCon!).  Welcome Oregon State Lady Beavers (10); they have cracked the top ten for the first time in school history.  Always nice to see some new faces at the top!


Turnovers, rebounds, and foul shots, oh my!

The Spartans lost to triad rivals HPU 76-68 tonight.  While there was effort on the floor and a few bright plays, particularly by Tevon Saddler and RJ White, this was a game lost in the hustle.  UNCG committed 16 turnovers, was soundly out rebounded, and left points on the foul line.  None of which win games.

I had to teach, so I was late to the game.  However, we went into halftime behind by 7, the game comfortably in range.  In the second half, Nicholas Paulos hit a three to top of a 10-0 run and tie the game at 45, but the Spartans didn’t rally from there.

The refs were on a foul calling rampage tonight, with both coaches demonstratively showing their displeasure at the calls.  Wes, at one point, looked for something to kick (but held himself back) and later in the half threw his pen in frustration.  And it was frustrating, I believe Jordy Kuiper got a foul when he was nowhere near a player and RJ White, who subsequently fouled out of the game, had a foul called on him while he was prone on the floor.  I’m not sure if the refs cleaned their contacts before this game!

As is often the case, the better foul shooting team wins the game.  HPU shot for 84.8% from the line tonight only leaving behind 5 points.  While UNCG could not have one this game on the line, leaving 6 points on the charity stripe (60%), it would have made it much easier to be in the running in the last two minutes.

Next Wednesday we meet Greensboro College in a day game.  We play at 11:30 and kids from the Guilford County Schools will be there.  As long as none is paying attention- I’m gonna play hooky for the afternoon!


40:15

I have been watching a lot of college ball this year, but have fallen lax in writing about it.  It has been a tough season.  UNCG has been hot and cold and last week all the Tobacco Road teams lost.  (I do not like Syracuse, Pitt, and Notre Dame in the ACC.  I do not like Syracuse, Pitt, and Notre Dame in the ACC.  I do not like Syracuse, Pitt, and Notre Dame in the ACC- If I say it three times will it go away…)

Tonight was a home conference game for the Spartans, going up against the Bulldogs of the Citadel.  The game started with the Bulldogs getting in two quick three pointers and a good solid lead, as much as 14 points, that UNCG had to dig its way out of.  It was a rough game.  The athletes were playing hard, the refs were making questionable calls, and by our bench, Wes Miller was losing his cool.

The crowd erupted, however, when the Spartans tied it at 59 to take us into overtime.  There were times when this game looked out of reach, but they kicked it into high gear in the last few minutes of regulation.  The Spartans FINALLY took the lead, for the first time, 40 minutes and 15 seconds into the game and held on tight for the last 4:45 to win 69-65.  It was a hard fought win and one I think they need to take them into the game versus Davidson on Saturday.  Davidson got pretty beat up at the beginning of the season.  They are playing up, I think, getting ready to move to the A-10, but the UNCG-Davidson game is always a tense one.  There is a lot of history on the line and going in with the W on their heels is nothing but good for the G.

Stats for this game were not stellar for either team.  The Bulldogs managed 42% FG, 36% from beyond the arc, and a woeful 50% from the line.  UNCG wasn’t much different with 36% FG, 29% three pointers, and 62% from the line.  Our bench did contribute 10 points and we got 14 point from turnovers.  Tonight our defense and rebounding kept us in the game, but there is room for improvement in shot selection and follow through on plays.  This is a good team, the potential is tremendous, just a few more tweaks and they will be there!


UNCG vs Presbyterian College

I have been watching a lot of ball just being slack about writing about it!

Last night the Spartans played the Blue Hose (WTF?) last night.  As a Spartan fan, it was a horrible showing and a boring loss.   I could take time to break it down, but it’s just not worth it.  Get it together- you are playing the Tar Heels on Saturday.

For the Blue Hose- there needs to be an acknowledgement of two players: #21 Jordan Downing- 37 points and 10-10 from the Free Throw line last night.  If that was not a career high, OMG, it was good!  and #14 hometown player Reggie Dillard.  There were plenty in the crowd that came to see this former Greensboro Day School player compete.  He was 11 points and 36 minutes of play for the night.

As this blog relies heavily on the view that free throws can win or loose a game:

PC was a poor 61% on the night but UNCG was 50% from the line.  Not good.  Games (perhaps not this one) are regularly won and lost on the line and UNCG left 8 points off the board (plus the lost points from an unfulfilled 1&1 shots) off the board.  That is enough to swing momentum and take the Spartans from good to great.


Tevon Saddler- SoCon freshman of the week!

Congratulations to UNCG freshman Tevon Saddler for being named SoCon freshman of the week!

Saddler leads all first year players in points with 19.7 per game and is fourth in the conference overall.  In the hard fought one point loss to ECU, Saddler offered up 34 points, beating Trevis Simpson’s 33 point record!  He added 15 points off the bench in UNCG’s win over Chowan.  He is shooting greater than 50%,  Saddler has ben to the line a league high 40 times this season with an average of 13.3 free throws per game (more than double his closest competition).  He has been improving at the line. (His percentage was woeful during UNCG’s trip to Spain!)  The line is always a place for improvement and if he is going to end up there he might as well capitalize.  Trevon- make sure you are practicing those free throws!

UNCG is back in action tomorrow night taking on The Pride of Greensboro College- Go Spartans!


Watching basketball on a Friday afternoon

One of the perks of being a graduate student is that I can go to a 2pm home game on campus.  Watching the UNCG women beat South Carolina State is a nice way to spend a fall afternoon, especially when my friend Lee Burgess joins me for the second half of the game!

The Lady Spartans jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead and led for the entire game against the Bulldogs of SC State, winning 72-63.  The Spartans were giving (and receiving) hard body checks for a game filled with physical play.  The on-court leaders, including Janea Stevenson and Lucy Mason, drove the plays and kept the energy high.  They were helped by 20 points from the bench (compared to SCSU’s 2).  When looking at the numbers:  SCSU had a disheartening 9% three point game, shot only 39% from the field, and contributed on 54.5% from the line.  It is hard to win games with those numbers, Bulldogs!  The Spartans, while better, have some room for improvement.  The offered 40% from behind the arc, 43% from the field, and 64% from the line.  That free throw number, at the collegiate level, needs to be up- higher than 7/10.

Then, I was subjected to the heart stopper that was the UNCHoly Cross game at 8pm.  I have been a Tar Heel fan long enough to know that watching them play basketball is sometimes an exercise in patience. It is often easier to watch games at home where you can pace, when needed.  They like to dawdle in the first half and come back in the second, but there were moments during this game that my doubts about them winning were high.  These Heels are a team without a leader and they have no focus on the court. Oh, if only Kendall Marshall had stayed- nonetheless, Marcus Paige is a great guard (but I want him at the point instead of Nate Britt- let’s be honest, I want it to be 2009 and have Ty Lawson back!), he tied his career high 23 last night.  This team needs a leader.  If PJ Hairston was on the floor he may be the one to assume that role (the NCAA has yet to weigh in on his return) and many are hoping that James Michael McAdoo will strengthen his leadership.  McAdoo is a great ball player, but I am not sure that they weight of leadership rests easily on his shoulders.  This is a good team (much better if Hairston and McDonald were on the court), but they need to get it together, find focus, and play ball like a team.

Roy Williams does not get a pass on that game last night, either.  I know that he wants players to play through frustrations and calls few time outs.  But last night at about the 16 minute mark of the second half, the Heels had not scored and players were showing their frustrations, fraying on the edges.  It would have been the perfect time for a “let’s get our heads on straight” time out.  That is what they are there for, coach!

I want to give Holy Cross their due.  The played a hard game last night.  The stats for both teams showed close numbers in the field goal, three point and free throw percentages.  I am a believer in close games to galvanize a strong team to find their potential, but a bit of me wants the Heels to flounder on December 7th….shhhh, don’t tell my mom!


Ups and downs of college basketball

Part of what I love about college basketball is the fast pace.   The ups and downs of the court can be mirrored by emotions on a night when plenty of ball is being played.

UNCG lost a heartbreaker to the Pirates of ECU.  After starting the game with a 10-0 lead and leading for most of the game, ECU pulled up close and on a foul won the game.  UNCG was up by two in the final seconds of the game and Nick Paulos fouled a Pirate three pointer.  The basket did not connect, but all three of the foul shots did.  ECU topped the Spartans 85-84 in a tough loss for the Spartans.  Kayel Locke looked strong under the basket.  He fouled out of the game, but left it all on the floor when he did.

The player of the night, however, was Tevon Saddler.  The first year player racked up 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists.  In my last post, I wondered if he was going to grow or be a ball hog?  If this game is a suggestion, he is leaning toward growth.  His play against HPU was sloppy, but last night he had tightened up his movements and was making good shooting as well as passing decisions.  He was also a respectable 14-19 from the line (73%).  Another first year player, Tyrone Outlaw, was 5-6 from the line as well.  His foul shout has such a beautiful arc to it- he should be teaching lessons!

For the game, the Pirates shot 89% from the free throw line.  UNCG connected 74% of the time- good, but those extra points matter in a close game.  Overall, we would be good to remember that games can be won AND LOST on the foul line!

In other games from last night:

Michigan State topped Kentucky.  MSU was the only team in the top five that I wanted to win last night!  While I am always happy to report a L for DookKansas is not my favorite team either.  (My mom taught me to be suspicious of all teams that play basketball in the particular shade of blue favored by Dook/Kentucky/Kansas).  Wiggins and the Jayhawks outplayed hometown boy Parker and the Blue Devils in the second half.  But remember, the season is in its infancy, all of these teams are poised for a great year of basketball.

Does anyone else get distracted by Andrew Wiggins’ name?  I really hope that his parents were big sci fi fans because every time I hear it I think of Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin from Orson Scott Card’s short story and novel Ender’s Game.  As a character, Ender is chosen because he is “one the enemy would never expect.”  With all of the hype around Wiggins, there are expectations, but will he grow into a leader like Ender?