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 Dook– Kansas 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?
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!