Story Courtesy: UNCG Athletics
GREENSBORO, N.C. - The UNCG men's basketball team posted a 75-70 non-conference victory over Claflin in a rare Wednesday matinee at the Greensboro Coliseum. The game was played in front of 5,424 fans, including over 4,000 middle schools students from Guilford County School system in the inaugural Education Day with UNCG Basketball.
"Give Claflin all the credit in the world as they came out and played with unbelievable energy and effort in the second half," head coach Wes Miller said. "The only positive thing I can say about my group is in the last two minutes, they found a way to win and that's something we can build on. Other than that, our effort has to way better. Obviously, I am please to escape here with a win, but there is not a whole lot more that I am pleased with today."
Sophomore forward Kayel Locke (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh) led the Spartans to victory with a career-high 25 points, while also grabbing six rebounds in 33 minutes of action. Locke connected on 10-of-17 from the field, including his lone three-pointer, while also hitting 4-of-5 from the free throw line. Junior Nicholas Paulos (Salt Lake City, Utah/New Hampton School) also added 14 points, including 4-of-4 from the free throw line as the Spartans finished the day hitting 10-of-11 (90.9%) from the stripe in the second half to secure the victory.
UNCG (5-5) finished the day shooting 51.9 percent (27-of-52) from the field, but hit just 4-of-13 (30.8%) from beyond the arc. The Spartans controlled play in the paint, out-scoring the Panthers 42-28 in the paint while also out-rebounding them by a 42-28 margin.
Claflin was led by Montel Williams, who scored 26 points off the bench as he was 8-of-14 from the field, including hitting 6-of-7 from three-point land. The Panthers connected on 36.9 percent (24-of-65) from the field in the loss, but hit 51.4 percent (18-of-35) in the second half that saw them out-score UNCG 46-37.
The Spartans started quickly, opening to a 7-2 lead in the first 47 seconds of the game. Freshman guard Tevon Saddler (Aberdeen, Md./St. Frances Academy) got UNCG going quickly, grabbing a loose ball off the tip and converting an old-fashioned three-point play just four seconds into the game. Locke and junior forward Kyle Cain (Chicago, Ill./Arizona State) each scored on the first couple of possessions for the early lead.
After Claflin posted an 8-2 run to take a 10-9 lead, the Spartans recorded a 13-2 run to run the lead to double figures at 22-12. Locke was the offensive spark as he scored seven points in the run, including a three-pointer, which led to a Claflin timeout. Freshman Tyrone Outlaw (Roxboro, N.C./Person County) capped the run as he scored off an offensive rebound, converting in track for the 10-point lead.
UNCG continued to put distance between the two teams with an 11-1 run, taking a 33-15 lead with 3:10 left in the half. The Spartans turned up the pressure on the defensive end and forced Claflin into some turnovers, which led to fast break baskets. Paulos scored four points in the run, including a perfectly executed fast break with freshman guard Diante Baldwin (Greensboro, N.C./High Point Christian).
The Spartans connected on 55.6 percent (15-of-27) from the field and hit 70 percent (7-of-10) from the free throw line in the first half. Locke led the way with 13 points in the first half as UNCG out-scored the Panthers 24-6 in the paint. Claflin only hit 20 percent (6-of-30) form the field in the first half but was 9-of-12 (75%) from the charity stripe.
Claflin opened the second half on an 18-7 run to pull within three at 45-42 as the Panthers started to hit form the outside, nailing their first three three-pointers of the half. Williams led the attack with eight points during the run while Marcellus Dunn also hit a three-pointer.
After the Panthers pulled within two, UNCG responded with a 10-2 run to take the lead back to eight at 57-49. Sophomore Jordan Potts (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) and Paulos hit back-to-back three-pointers to give UNCG some breathing room, but Claflin kept hanging around.
Williams nailed his sixth three-pointer to narrow the gap to 69-68 with 2:37 left in the game, but Potts scored a pivotal basket on the ensuing possession driving into the paint before dropping in a floater. The Panthers would pull back within a point with 1:31 left as they scored off a scramble and a loose ball, but Locke was fouled on the following possession and calmly hit both free throws to extend the lead back to three at 73-70.
The Spartans' defense stepped up on the last possession, forcing a wild shot from Brian Newsome and Saddler corralled the defensive rebound. Paulos iced the game away as he nailed both free throws with 18 seconds left to give the Spartans the five-point edge.
Saddler added 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the victory as he was 6-of-8 from the free throw line. Potts chipped in nine points, five assists and four rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench while redshirt freshman center R.J. White (Frisco, Texas/Frisco) chipped in seven points and four rebounds in the victory.
The Spartans return to action Saturday afternoon as they travel to the Garden State to battle future Big Ten foe and current American Athletic Conference member Rutgers. Game time is set for 4 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN3 and the Watch ESPN App.