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!
Tonight is the 2014 ESPY awards and, to be completely honest, I had forgotten about them. Wednesday nights in the summer are for “So You Think You Can Dance” (because I can’t). However, I received an happy little present as I was going up to bed- happy enough that I needed to to a quick blog post for you all.
The ESPY for the Best Upset was Mercer’s defeat of Duke in the NCAA tournament. You know I am jonseing for for basketball in the middle of the summer…it’s a long time until October, but this was a happy little surprise. Let’s Celebrate!
Let’s recount that night. The Mercer Bears were in Duke home territory playing at the PNC arena in Raleigh. And as the seconds wound down Coach K had to steel himself for losing to a #14 seed and getting knocked out of the round of 64 AGAIN (let’s also savor the 2012 win by Lehigh in Greensboro). The Bears won that game 78-71 on their strength and experience. They started five seniors, shut down Duke’s scorers from the field, and played all 40 minutes of basketball. This ESPY is a bit of basketball goodness in the middle of the summer!
Let’s Celebrate that again!!