GREENSBORO, N.C. - Despite a career-high 22 points from freshman forward Kayel Locke (Owings Mill, Md./McDonogh), the UNCG men's basketball team suffered an 90-79 loss to crosstown rival North Carolina A&T Wednesday night at the Greensboro Coliseum.
"You have to give North Carolina A&T a ton of credit as they came in here and out-played us tonight," head coach Wes Miller said. "On the other hand, I didn't think it was a very good effort by our team. I am really disappointed in our effort, first and foremost. I am disappointed in our poise and disappointed we are not taking the things we do in practice and carrying them over into games on the defensive side of the ball."
Locke went to the free throw line 16 times in the contest, knocking down 14 of the attempts to account for more than half of his offensive output off the bench. A trio of Spartans also notched double figures in points as junior Trevis Simpson (Douglas, Ga./Coffee) dropped in 17 while senior Derrell Armstrong (Mechanicsville, Va./Alleghany CC) and junior Drew Parker (Houston, Texas/LaPorte) contributed 11 each. Armstrong was one of three players to grab nine rebounds during the game, along with fifth-year senior Kelvin McNeil (Newport News, Va./Delaware) and Locke.
The Spartans (1-5) were plagued by a cold shooting night, firing at just 31-percent from the field (22-for-71) while the Aggies were able to drain 48-percent of their attempts (24-for-50). UNCG held a significant upper hand in rebounding, pulling down 50 boards as compared to 38 for the visitors - including a 23-7 advantage on the offensive glass.
There were 87 free throw attempts between the squads, with the Spartans hitting 30 of their 40 charity shots and North Carolina A&T dropping in 34 of 47 at the line. The teams also combined for 39 turnovers, resulting in 20 steals.
North Carolina A&T (3-5) placed three players in double figures in the victory, including a game-high 24 points for Lamont Middleton and 22 points for Jeremy Underwood off the bench. Bruce Beckford added 14 points while Austin Witter grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
The two teams came out of the gate slowly, trading baskets back and forth until the Spartans took a 22-16 lead as Simpson scored five-straight points to give UNCG a six-point lead. The Spartans started to go cold from the field from that point forward as North Carolina A&T posted a 24-5 run to take a 40-27 lead. The Aggies made four three-pointers during the run as they extended their lead to double figures before heading into the locker room with a 42-30 lead.
The Spartans connected on just 29.0 percent (9-of-31) from the field and just 23.1 percent (3-of-13) from long range in the first half. Locke led the Spartans with 10 points in the first half as he was 6-of-7 from the free throw line. N.C. A&T connected on 41.9 percent (13-of-31) from the field and 40 percent (6-of-15) from long range in the first half. Lamont Middleton and Jeremy Underwood led the way with 12 points apiece for the Aggies.
The Aggies opened the second half scoring the first four points of the half to extend their lead before the Spartans posted a 10-2 run to make it a 48-40 contest. Armstrong scored on back-to-back baskets in transition while Locke scored three times from the charity stripe in the run.
Each time the Spartans made a push, the Aggies had a response with consecutive baskets maintaining a double digit lead for most of the second half. UNCG made one final push narrowing the gap to 76-69 as Simpson scored on a drive and then went to the line for two free throws. He hit the first from the charity stripe before missing the second and the rebound went off a UNCG leg for the change of possession.
UNCG was also plagued by a tough shooting night from three-point land as it hit just 17.2 percent (5-of-29) from long range while the Aggies hit 38.1 percent (8-of-21). Three different Spartans missed at least five three-pointers in the off shooting night for UNCG.
The Spartans open Southern Conference play Saturday night as they wrap up their four-game home stretch by hosting The Citadel. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum.
UNCG/ WFMY News 2 Sports