CULLOWHEE, N.C. – UNCG men’s basketball senior forward Marvin Smith (Richmond, Va./Fork Union Military Academy) scored a career-high 24 points to lead the Spartans to a bounce back 66-55 victory over Western Carolina Saturday night at the Ramsey Center.
The victory marks the second-straight win for UNCG in Cullowhee and just the fifth win all-time in series history for the Spartans on the road. UNCG improves to 12-5 overall on the year and 3-1 in Southern Conference play as the Spartans are one of four teams with one or fewer losses in league play. Western Carolina falls to 7-10 overall and 3-2 in league play, suffering just its second home loss of the year.
Smith connected on 9-of-15 from the field, including three 3-pointers, while hitting all three of his free throws. He also grabbed nine rebounds and posted two steals in 32 minutes of action. Junior guard Francis Alonso (Malaga, Spain/Cushing Academy) added 20 points, 18 of which came in the second half, as he was 4-of-11 from distance, with all those coming in the second half. Senior forward Jordy Kuiper (Groningen, Netherlands/Canaries Basketball Academy) added nine points and four rebounds.
The Spartans dominated the glass in the victory, out-rebounding the Catamounts 36-19 in the victory. UNCG had as many offensive rebounds as Western Carolina had defensive rebounds (14) on the night. Sophomore forward James Dickey (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) added eight rebounds while freshman guard Isaiah Miller (Covington, Ga./Newton) grabbed six rebounds, four offensive.
UNCG shook off a tough first half shooting performance with a strong a second half as the Spartans finished shooting 49.1 percent (26-of-53) from the field and 31 percent (9-of-29) from 3-point land. The Spartans hit eight of their nine 3-pointers in the second half.
Western Carolina was held to 39.5 percent (15-of-38) shooting from the field and connected on just 20-of-29 (69%) form the free throw line. Mike Amius led the Catamounts with 19 points while Deriece Parks hit 4-of-7 from deep to finish with 12 points.
Both teams came out slowly as the Spartans held a 13-10 lead just over eight minutes into the game. Smith scored seven-straight at one point in the early going and had nine of the Spartans first 13 points. Western Carolina’s Mike Amius scored seven points early for the Catamounts.
The Spartans took an 18-11 lead with 6:14 remaining after a 3-pointer from Smith and a basket by Kuiper. The Catamounts out-scored the Spartans 13-6 in the final six minutes of the half as the teams went to the locker room tied at 24-24.
Smith led the Spartans with 14 points and seven rebounds in the first half, hitting 5-of-8 from the field and 3-of-3 from the free throw line. The Spartans as a team connected on 10-of-26 (38.5%) from the field and just 1-of-12 (8.3%) from distance in the opening half. Western Carolina connected on 31.8 percent (7-of-22) from the field but hit 3-of-8 (37.5%) from deep. Deriece Parks hit all three of the Catamounts’ 3-pointers to lead the WCU in scoring with nine points.
The Spartans opened the second half on a 16-6 run to take a 40-30 lead just over four minutes into the half. UNCG started to heat up from the outside as it hit four 3-pointers in the run, two each by Alonso and Smith. Alonso scored eight points in the run while Smith had six points.
Western Carolina didn’t back down as the Catamounts pulled within three at 44-41, getting to the free throw line to stay in the game. The Spartans responded back with a 9-2 run to extend the lead back to double figures at 53-43. Alonso hit two 3-pointers in the run while sophomore forward Kyrin Galloway (Milton, Ga./Milton) nailed a 3-pointer against the WCU defense.
The Spartans would keep the Catamounts at bay down the stretch as Western Carolina got only as close as seven at 59-52 with 3:42 remaining. Kuiper ended any doubt with a big 3-pointer to stretch the lead back to double figures, where it would stay the remainder of the game.
The Spartans return home for a three-game home stretch beginning Thursday night when UNCG hosts The Citadel. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum.