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What Lies Ahead for UNCG Men’s Basketball

1/6/19

The UNCG Men’s Basketball team has won 7 straight and is riding a 17 game home winning streak. They head into the week facing their two toughest SOCON opponents so far, Wofford Thursday night, followed by Furman Saturday early evening.

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The Spartans gutted out a Saturday 1pm start against VMI 71-68. Trailing most of the game, UNCG rallied behind another stellar outing by Isaiah Miller. The sophomore guard had 17 points , 12 of which came in the second half, and a career high 9 rebounds.

The VMI game saw the return of James Dickey, the reigning Southern Conference Defensive player of the year. Shaking off some rust, James had 9 points and 6 Rebounds, in limited minutes. This was a key tilt for Dickey to get reaclimated to his role with the Spartans.

Clutch moments from Francis Alonso, and the new masked avenger, Kyrin Galloway, helped the Spartans escape Lexingon, VA with a win.

This version of the Spartans has yet to play a complete game in all facets from start to finish. If you ask the coaching staff. “a win’s a win I guess” and they will take all of them, but they are still searching for faster starts, and complete halfs. Francis Alonso spoke about it after the VMI game.

“You practice for that, for games like this,” Alonso said. “We cannot control when the ball is going to go in and when it’s not. So we work on what we call ‘the 90 percent’ — the things we can control like being in the right spots and working on defense.

“People like to talk about the other 10 percent, but today was a clear example that we need to focus on the 90 percent. Because even though we were having a rough time offensively, we were only down by eight points at halftime. … It proves that if we take care of the things we can control, we can still be in the game.”

This perspective is what has turned a once downtrodden UNCG culture to the winning force it is today. 14-2 overall and 3-0 in the Southern Conference.

Looking Ahead:

Thursday Jan 10, 7pm @Greensboro Coliseum
Opponent:
Wofford, 12-4 overall, 4-0 in the Southern Conference

The Terriers are lead by Fletcher Magee. Magee just recently broke Davidson Alum Steph Curry’s Southern Conference 3pt field goals made record in a 78-74 win over Mercer. You read that correct, That STEPH CURRY.

I would caution anyone who thinks Wofford is just “The Fletcher Magee show”. Sure, he is a great player and with his volume shooting, can drop 30-40 points on any team in the country. But the best Wofford games have come when Magee was so focused upon, that open looks for Nathan Hoover and Storm Murphey blew teams out. A prime example , their 20 point win over the SEC’s South Carolina Gamecocks.

If teams want to beat this Wofford club it starts with pressuring the ball and making sure the passing lanes are clogged for big men like Cameron Jackson and Keve Alume.

In a game earlier in the year at High Point, Wofford Coach Mike Young told me, “Cameron Jackson is probably the key to our offense” The way he can post and get his own shot, how he finds the right guy out of the post to kick out for open looks, at this level, a guy of his caliber is special”

If you’re a Spartan fan the return of James Dickey comes at the perfect time. Neutralizing Jackson and the Wofford post game, coupled with pressure defense on ball handlers, Hoover and Murphy, could be the keys to handing the Terriers their first loss in Conference play this season.

The Spartans haven’t lost at home in a very long time, I don’t think that trend stops, UNCG 71 Wofford 63

Saturday Jan 12th 5:00pm @Greensboro Coliseum

Opponent
Furman 14-2 overall 3-1 in Southern Conference

Early in the year the Furman Palladins were the talk of not just Mid Major College basketball, but the entire game as a whole. Wins over Loyola and Villanova on the road ,were major factors in Furman being ranked 24th in the country.

A trip down to Baton Rouge against a talented LSU squad ended any slim hopes of a perfect season , dropping them from the ranks of the unbeaten.

There next game wasn’t as kind to them as they visited the always tough East Tennesse State Buccaneers, in Freedom Hall. They were thrashed 79-56 in a key Southern Conference tilt. The physicality and athleticism that ETSU has was too much for the Palladins.

Since then ,Furman has rebounded nicely with SOCON wins over Mercer and The Citadel. I expect they’ll be ready to roll once they touch down in Greensboro.

Bob Richey’s club has 8 really solid players. Statistically they are lead by Matt Rafferty and Jorday Lyons, but the engine of this club, is very similar to that of UNCG’s, Alex Hunter, the sophomore guard is a fantastic leader, who seems to do all the little things and provides Furman with intangibles beyond his playing ability. In that same mold, Clay Mounce is a player to watch in this game. He epitomizes the Bob Richey style: cool, calm, and collective.

Furman is a dangerous opponent, what they lack in athletic ability, when compared to UNCG, they counter with running great offensive sets, and having more then one player that can beat their opponents. They stay connected on defense, and when they are rolling, can be a dangerous offensive bunch. UNCG will need to break them down and be patient, it should be a game of runs. Isaiah Miller and James Dickey will be the keys if the Spartans want to taste victory.

The Spartans will have a tussle, but will continue their winning ways with a clean sweep over the weekend, 76-68, UNCG over Furman at the coliseum.

Side Note:
About The Southern Conference

This past week the SOCON had some controversy with disgraced ACC official, Karl Hess, going after Samford Head Men’s basketball coach Scott Padgett at a game in Johnson City vs ETSU. Hess was back just as quickly giving technicals to Mike Young at Wofford’s home win over Mercer Saturday evening. I don’t know what the SOCON will do with Hess going forward, and as a journalist, it’s not my call. What I can tell you is that this conference is worth your patronage.

Right now the Southern Conference is the only conference in all of college basketball with 5 teams with 11 wins or more, that’s half the conference. Just a reminder, mid major ball clubs have to play half of their first 12-14 games on the road where teams lose 80 percent of the time. Right now this league is clearly more then a one bid league, and as far as coaching goes, I go back to a conversation Wes Miller and I had in July, where he outlined how difficult it is to coach in the SOCON. He outlined the vast differences in styles and pace of play as a true grinder and test for any coach of any level.

If you’ve never been to a Southern Conference game, no better time to then this coming weekend to come out and watch UNCG play 2 teams who have a combined 27 wins on the season already, with wins over South Carolina, Villanova, Loyola. I hope to see you there!

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