GREENSBORO, N.C. - On the night with junior Trevis Simpson (Douglas, Ga./Coffee) became the 19th Spartan all-time to score 1,000-career points, the UNCG men's basketball team turned in a dominating 84-54 victory over The Citadel Saturday night in its Southern Conference opener at the Greensboro Coliseum. The Spartans connected on a season-high 58.9 percent (33-of-56) from the field and 52.4 percent (11-of-21) from three-point land to open league play with a 30-point victory.
"I was really pleased with the way we responded to a really poor effort earlier in the week against North Carolina A&T," head coach Wes Miller said. "We had some really defensive-minded practices Thursday and Friday. I know they weren't easy practices or normal game-preparation practices, but I thought our guys carried the effort over from those practices to the game tonight. Our defensive energy set the tone tonight and we obviously shot it very well against the zone."
Simpson became the 19th player to reach 1,000 career points when he connected on a free throw at the 17:54 mark of the second half. Simpson became the third fastest Spartan all-time to reach the 1,000-career point mark, needing just 64 games to accomplish the feat. Only former Spartans Yusuf Stewart (59 games) and Kyle Hines (61 games) reached the 1,000-point mark faster.
The Spartans' 58.9 percent shooting from the field (33-of-56) is their highest field goal percentage since hitting the same mark January 17, 2009 at Elon. UNCG had 12 different players score in the victory, including seven players with at least six points. The 52.4 percent (11-of-21) shooting from long range was a season-high for the Spartans and their best percentage from long range since hitting 52.4 percent against Miami last year.
Junior Drew Parker (Houston, Texas/La Porte) led the Spartans with a career-high 15 points as he was 6-of-8 from the field, including 3-of-5 from three-point land. Simpson added 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting in 26 minutes of action while sophomore Nicholas Paulos (Salt Lake City, Utah/New Hampton School) scored a season-high 11 points off the bench, hitting three three-pointers.
The two teams started slowly with the Spartans holding just a 6-5 lead at the 15:13 mark of the first half. UNCG broke the game wide open at that point as it scored 10 straight points on its way to a 33-9 run to take a 39-14 lead with 4:15 left in the half.
The Spartans' 33-9 run encompassed 10:58 and they shot 72.2 percent (13-of-18) from the field and 80 percent (8-of-10) form three-point land in the dominant stretch. Seven different Spartans scored in the run with Simpson leading the way with eight points while Paulos and Parker each added six points on the strength of two three-pointers apiece.
The Spartans also turned up the pressure on The Citadel on the defensive end during the run as they limited the Bulldogs to just 25 percent (3-of-12) shooting and forced them into five turnovers. UNCG continued to push the pace as it went into the locker room with its largest halftime lead of the season at 46-21.
UNCG connected on 66.7 percent (18-of-27) from the field and 66.7 percent (8-of-12) from three-point land in the first half. Simpson led all scorers in the first half with 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting while Parker added eight points. Paulos chipped in six points while freshman R.J. White (Frisco, Texas/Frisco) scored a career-high six points in the first half as he was 2-of-3 from the field and hit both free throws he attempted.
The Citadel was limited to just 27.3 percent (6-of-22) shooting from the field and 16.7 percent (1-of-6) from three-point land in the first half. The Bulldogs were led by Mike Groselle who scored 13 points as he was 4-of-6 from the field and 5-of-6 from the free throw line.
The Bulldogs came out of the break and posted an early 9-2 run to force the Spartans into a timeout at 48-30. The Citadel forced the Spartans into three early turnovers to lead to the mini-spurt. Groselle started the half with another basket before Matt Van Scyoc hit a three-pointer in transition to cut the lead under 20 points.
The Spartans took the momentum back though as they posted a 10-0 run to extend the lead to 65-36. Paulos ignited the run with a three-pointer on his way to five points during the stretch. Freshman Kayel Locke (Owings Mill, Md./McDonogh) scored four points during the stretch, including a wide-open layup off a stellar pass in the interior from White.
The Spartans closed out the victory down the stretch as they didn't allow the Bulldogs any closer than 24 points in the final 15 minutes of the second half. UNCG dominated all aspects of the game as it out-rebounded The Citadel by a 41-22 margin and dished out 18 assists compared to just nine assists for the Bulldogs.
The Spartans' bench also out-scored The Citadel's bench by a 39-11 margin in the victory. White finished the game with six points and four rebounds in 12 minutes of action while Locke added six points and five rebounds. Senior Brian Cole (Dacula, Ga./Dacula) also added four points in five minutes while fifth-year senior Kelvin McNeil (Newport News, Va./Delaware) chipped in seven points.
The Citadel was led by Groselle who scored a game-high 20 points as he was 6-of-12 from the field and 8-of-10 from the charity stripe but only grabbed four rebounds. Ashton Moore was the only other Bulldog to reach double figures in scoring, adding 11 points on 5-of-14 shooting from the field.
The Spartans will be off for over two weeks for final exams before returning to action Dec. 16 when they travel to James Madison for a non-conference contest.
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