GREENSBORO, N.C. - Despite another double-double from fifth-year senior Kelvin McNeil (Newport News, Va./Delaware), the UNCG men's basketball team could not hold off Rutgers Sunday afternoon, falling to the Scarlet Knights 87-80 at the Greensboro Coliseum.
"You have to give a ton of credit to Rutgers," head coach Wes Miller said. "I thought we played well in the first half and stayed in the game in the second half, but they did a better job of getting to loose balls and making plays down the stretch than we did. I feel bad for the guys in the locker room. I have to do a better job coaching, as I am not preparing them to play in games right now and I have to better prepare our guys to close out games."
McNeil posted 10 points and 11 rebounds as one of four Spartans who recorded double-digit points. Senior Derrell Armstrong (Mechanicsville, Md./Allegany CC) tied his season high with 25 points on the strength of five three-point field goals while junior Trevis Simpson (Douglas, Ga./Coffee) and senior Korey Van Dussen (Zeeland, Mich./Zeeland East) contributed 16 and 10 respectively.
The Scarlet Knights filled up the basket, shooting 57.4 percent on a 31-for-54 effort from the field, while limiting UNCG to 42 percent (29-for-69). The Spartans owned the glass, corralling 40 rebounds to Rutgers' 30, but the Scarlet Knights hit a good majority of their free throw attempts, knocking down 21-of-25 (84 percent).
Eli Carter led the Scarlet Knights with 25 points as he was 9-of-15 from the field and hit all six of his free throws. Myles Mack added 24 points in the victory for Rutgers as he was 9-of-11 from the field, 3-of-4 from long distance and 3-of-3 from the charity stripe.
Rutgers (4-1) came out of the gate and scored the first eight points of the game on its way to a 10-2 early lead forcing the Spartans into a timeout. UNCG regrouped and answered back with a 13-4 run to take a 15-14 lead on the Scarlet Knights. Simpson started the run with five straight points, while Armstrong hit a three-pointer to put UNCG in front for the first time in the game.
The teams traded baskets until Rutgers posted a 29-28 lead with 5:48 left in the half. The Spartans took the lead back with six straight points as Armstrong hit another three-pointer before feeding freshman forward Kayel Locke (Owings Mill, Md./McDonogh) for an old-fashioned three-point play in Rutgers' first possession of zone defense to take a 34-29 lead.
The Spartans (1-4) continued to push the pace as they extended their lead to 41-31 as they made it a 13-2 run. Armstrong hit another three-point in the spurt and then found Simpson on the fast break to make it a double-digit lead. Rutgers weathered the storm and scored six straight points to close the half on a 9-2 run, trimming the UNCG lead to 43-40 as Carter hit a deep three-pointer at the buzzer.
UNCG connected on 44.7 percent (17-of-38) from the field and 40 percent (6-of-15) from three-point land in the first half. Armstrong led all scorers with 16 points as he was 6-of-7 from the field and 4-of-5 from long range. Simpson added nine points while Locke chipped in seven points.
Rutgers connected on 56.7 percent (17-of-30) from the field and 42.9 percent (3-of-7) from long range. Mack led the Scarlet Knights with 15 points as he was 6-of-7 from the field while Carter added 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
The second half saw the Spartans open with two straight baskets as junior David Williams (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) and Simpson scored to give UNCG a 47-40 lead. The Scarlet Knights responded with an 11-3 run to take a 51-50 lead as Dane Miller ignited Rutgers with an old-fashioned three-point play.
The teams continued to trade baskets back and forth until Rutgers posted a 7-2 run to take a 70-65 lead. The Scarlet Knights started to go the free throw line where they were strong as Carter nailed two giving RU a five-point lead. The Spartans kept battling and stayed within four points until Mack nailed a deep three-pointer as the shot clock was winding down to extend the lead to 80-73. Rutgers clinched the victory from the charity stripe as it hit 18-of-22 free throws in the second half, including 10 in the final four minutes of the game.
The Spartans finished the game shooting just 28.0 percent (7-of-25) from three-point land while also hitting just 62.5 percent (15-of-24) from the charity tripe. UNCG also committed 16 turnovers in the loss, which led to 23 points for the Scarlet Knights. Williams and Locke each chipped in eight points as seven Spartans scored in the matinee.
UNCG returns to action Wednesday night as it hosts crosstown rival North Carolina A&T. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum.
UNCG/ WFMY News 2 Sports