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.
I defend my dissertation in just a few weeks, so I am dipping my toe back into basketball blogging just in time for the Rio Olympics this summer! I become a fan of so many sports during the Olympics- track and field, gymnastics, swimming, rowing (though I do follow the Warwick Rowers on Instagram because they are outspoken about LGBT inclusion in sport), volleyball (beach and indoor), wrestling (I managed my high school team and have a soft spot for the grapplers), and diving. There is so much that divides us, but sports can be that thing that brings us together (like getting UNC fans to root on Coach K).
Team USA has released the Women’s roster and it is hard not to be excited to watch these athletes play! There is so much talent collected on this team. It is hard to see how Geno Auriemma could have put together a better squad. #squadgoals
Of course, the best part about sports is that we all have ideas and can dialogue back and forth about the details. Is the team UConn heavy? Yes, but those are the best players in the game right now. Geno is good at his job and has built a powerhouse. He is not killing the game and by the look of his work with in Team USA basketball he is cultivating coaches to rival him during the season. There are blog posts to be had around UConn, women’s sports, and the game of basketball, but if you don’t bemoan the 44 point rout of the Sooners by the Villanova Wildcats in this final four in the same way that you want to blast the Huskies then we need to explore why. Is it because their dominance is hurting the game? Based on history, that just doesn’t hold up. John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins won 10 titles in 12 seasons from 1964-1975, seven consecutively (1967-1973), and the game seems to be doing just fine. But back to the task at hand…
Tamika Catchings is a perpetual face on the roster. She graduated Tennessee in 2001 (the same year I finished undergrad) and is playing some great ball! 36 looks good y’all!
I am thrilled to see how Geno will make use of the talents of Maya Moore, Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne, and Breanna Stewart. I loved watching these women play separately and together there may be some sort of superpower they can link together and unveil on the court- I imagine it is kind of like the Thundercats call!
To cull the team to 12 players, there will always be great talent left at home. That said, there are two players I am missing. I don’t know who’s place they could take and trust that the right decisions were made for Team USA basketball, but Candace Parker and Shoni Shimmel would be great additions to the field. Parker will be part of the training camp and I’m not sure why Shimmel’s not here, but they deserve a mention.
The Olympics are coming up fast and I’m ready for all the basketball action!
I had to break my Ph.D. hiatus (I am not writing about basketball until this Ph.D. is done, but it is SO hard- Google Chinanu Onuaku’s free throw).
However, last night’s Oklahoma- Kansas game illustrates my “make your freaking fouls shots” philosophy so perfectly, I had to make an exception.
This was going to be a fun game to watch- #1 playing #2, in the same conference, in January- there is so much on the line and these athletes played their hearts out.
It was a fast-paced, all-out race to the finish from the technical foul assessed to the KU bench 4 seconds into the game or that almost technical in the 1st OT for having 6 players on the court. It is the kind of ball I like to watch.
But after 3 OT Kansas proved they deserved the #1 spot in the land (AP poll had them at #1, but the coaches poll gave Oklahoma the #1 nod).
If Oklahoma had just made their free throws at the end of regulation, when the game was tied, there would have been no OT and they could have been giant killers.
But alas, it is free throw shots that win, and squander, games and KU nudged past Oklahoma at the line. Kansas made 78% (18/23)of their free throws to the Sooners 75% (18/24), but that is not the whole story. If Oklahoma would have won in regulation they would have kept the Jayhawks off the line 17 times as KU only had 6 free throw opportunities in the first 40 minutes. Oklahoma made 16/22 in regulation, but that leaves 6 points on the line. A comfortable margin to have knocked off a #1.
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!
There have been three games since I have posted so let me catch you up:
1- The New Year’s Eve afternoon game against Mars Hill College was a blow out with the Spartans defeating the Lions 92-48. This game was played in Fleming gym and basketball is a great way to spend a holiday afternoon! Nick Paulos hit a long three at the halftime buzzer to get the crowd to their feet. This game was also where first year player, #1 Marvin Smith, got some significant playing time– 21 minutes. I’m excited to watch him mature into a great ball player.
2- On January 3, Mercer, a newcomer to the SoCon, traveled to Greensboro. They are a tough, team that plays well together, a formidable opponent for anyone. If you will remember, Duke learned that the hard way when the Bears knocked the Blue Devils out of the tournament. In honor of that moment and to congratulate the Bears for their ESPY I did what I do best- glitter up a poster
UNCG fell 55-76 after trailing for 40 minutes only tying the score once. It was hard, but the Spartans had a hard time connecting from beyond the arc (28%) and their free throw percentage was a paltry 45% (5-11).
3- Tonight, at the game by myself, the Spartans took the Bulldogs to overtime before losing by two 83-85. UNCG got off to a strong 5-0 start and the lead was bantered back and forth. There was a lot of sweat left on the court tonight! The Citadel beat us on the free throw line 85% to our 71%. They only put three of our player on the charity stripe (Locke going 10 times), but those points could have made the difference!
And just for fun:
Santa, through his NYC-based elves, left us tickets to the UAB-UNC game, so on this beautiful, warm December afternoon we caravanned to the Dean Dome for a late afternoon game.
Last year UAB surprised UNC in Alabama. This year the Blazers traveled to Chapel Hill and lost 89-58. Marcus Paige and Justin Jackson pulled the Heels away with their three point shots. Paige had been off his shot for the past few games but today connected for 2-6 from beyond the arc. Justin Jackson hit 2-3 of is three pointers. Kennedy Meets was on his game tonight cleaning up under the basket, hitting mid-range jumpers, doing his part from the line. Though, the free throw stars for the night go to Isaiah Hicks (5-6) and Nate Britt (4-4). Those FT percentages win games, especially as conference play draws closer.
Tonight is the first night I paid much attention to the new point guard Joel Berry. The point guard position is a hard one to learn. He is beginning to get his feet under him and blossom (short bursts) in the role. Marcus Paige is shining bright right now, but it is good to see Berry learning how to be a Tar Heel PG.
On another note, while I was hopeful that neither Louisville nor Kentucky would win….Kentucky did.
Former SoCon rival Elon beat UNCG today 71-64. It has been since January 2010 since the Spartans have bested the Phoenix.
Though in the first half Elon was in desperate need of a break for dribble drills, they had three (if not four, I stopped counting) turnovers on walks. If you move with the ball, you have to be dribbling it. Pretty simple, really. The Phoenix also twice fouled our three point shooter- the dumbest play in basketball. There was sloppy passing on both sides and UNCG just could not get their feet under them.
I am also confused as to why Diante Baldwin did not start. He played 30 minutes, but did not start. The Spartans are more focused with a point guard on the court and Baldwin is the best player for that position-why is he not starting?
As for stats, Elon lead in points in the paint, points off turnovers, and points off fast breaks. Their bench was deep contributing 29 points to our 6. Wes was frustrated and it showed. He was particular animated on the sidelines and with just a few seconds left in the game a Technical Foul was assessed to the bench, but it was on Coach Miller. He was mad and it is always nice to see passion on the sidelines!
Coming off last game’s free throw shooting, this game was marked improvement 23-30 (77%) and 10% better than Elon’s 67%. Of course, the 7 points left on the court would have pushed us into overtime.
Our next home game is on New Year’s Eve in Fleming Gym. Such a fun place to watch basketball.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the halftime score of the kentucky-UCLA game: 41-7. Yes, UCLA scored 7 points in 20 minutes of basketball. Those players in that particular shade of blue scored 24 points before the Bruins put any points on the board. God, I hate Kentucky. But it did lead to this sentence, so there, “This was the most lopsided first half of basketball since the Monstars jumped out to a 66-18 lead on the Tune Squad in the movie Space Jam.”