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!

Elon has UNCG’s number

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.”

Tar Heels visit the Spartans

Over 11,000 people trekked to the Greensboro Coliseum today to watch the UNCG Spartans take on the UNC Tar Heels.  While there was plenty of Blue and Gold represented, it was practically a home game for UNC since it is only about 50 miles from campus to campus.

The final score UNC 79- UNCG 56.  The Tar Heels led the the whole game, but it was not a beautiful game on either side.  If I had to describe this game in three words it would be sloppy, hesitant, and unfocused.  Both teams had issues with throwing the ball away and poor passing.  UNCG, in particular, didn’t follow through on their shots causing some easy points to be missed- not to mention the free throw misses.  The 15 points that the Spartans left out of play at the line would have put them in contention for this game.  However, the Spartans did find their game in the second half- scoring 39 points- and began to play with more confidence.

Numbers for the Tar Heels will not blow anyone away- 49% FG, 21% from the three, and 69% from the line.  UNCG has plenty of room for improvement (hopefully before we meet Elon on Saturday)- 35% FG, 21% three points, and 42% free throw.  That is where the Spartans need to practice- 42% is just not acceptable at the college level.

For the Spartans Kayel Locke led with 17 points.  Nicholas Paulos contributed 12, including some late threes that brought the crowd to their feet.  Diante Baldwin, who did not start the game, added a respectable 13 from the point guard position.  It is nice to have a point guard back on the court and my question for Wes Miller is: why is Baldwin not starting?  With the leadership he showed today he should be one of the starting five on Saturday.

Seahawks down Spartans

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!

60 Fouls

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!

tip off

The Sweetest Time of the Year

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!

UNCG vs Lees McRae College

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!