GAME NOTES: The UNC Greensboro Spartans try yet again to secure their first road win of the season, as they take on the Appalachian State Mountaineers in a Southern Conference battle at the Holmes Center on Monday night.
UNCG hasn't found much success this season regardless of the venue, as it has just three wins in 14 contests, with two of those coming against small programs in Lees-McRae (86-47) and Winston-Salem State (81-65). The Spartans most recently faced Western Carolina on the road this past Saturday, and while they fought hard, they still wound up on the losing end of a 62-59 final.
After a dreadful 2-8 start, Appalachian State turned things around in recent weeks. The Mountaineers are in the midst of a season-high, five-game winning streak, which includes back-to-back triumphs over SoCon foes Wofford (50-49) and Elon (80-70).
The Mountaineers hold to a 20-18 advantage in the all-time series with the Spartans, but UNCG closed the gap with wins in two of three meetings last season, including in the quarterfinal round of the 2012 SoCon Tournament.
UNCG kept its clash with WCU on Saturday close, but with the game tied 48-48 with under two minutes to play, the Catamounts scored seven straight points to pull away. The Spartans struggled to find its shooting rhythm, making good on only 35.7 percent of their field goal attempts, but Derrell Armstrong was fantastic in draining 9-of-20 shots for 25 points, which tied a season-high. Putting up points usually isn't an issue for UNCG, as it nets a SoCon-best 74.2 ppg, but it also sports the league's worst scoring defense in permitting nearly 78 ppg. The Spartans have the top scoring duo in the conference in Trevis Simpson and Armstrong, with the former leading the league with 18.0 ppg and the latter turning in 16.6 ppg while boasting stellar percentages from the field (.497) and 3-point range (.390). Kayel Locke adds 11.1 ppg to the mix, and all three of UNCG's top scorers shoot at least 71 percent from the free- throw line.
Appalachian State trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half of its recent bout with Elon before battling back to tie the game before halftime, and it pulled away after the break to continue its winning streak. The squad shot nearly 50 percent from the field and had five players reach double figures, led by Nathan Healy's 22 points. Mike Neal drilled all three of his attempts from 3-point range for 17 points, Tevin Baskin recorded 16 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, and Jay Canty (12 points) and Tab Hamilton (10 points) were also impressive. Similar to UNCG, the Mountaineers have one of the best scoring offenses in the league (71.5 ppg) only to spoil it with one of the worst scoring defenses (72.1 ppg), although they have limited opponents to just 60.0 ppg during the current win streak. Canty not only averages a team-best 15.4 ppg, but he contributes across the board with 6.1 ppg, 2.8 apg and 1.0 spg. Healy (13.6 ppg) has shot 53.8 percent from the floor while also logging team-highs in rebounding (6.8 rpg), blocks (1.4 bpg) and steals (1.8 spg), while Hamilton rounds out the unit's double-digit scorers with 10.7 ppg.
There should be plenty of points to go around in this battle of two high- scoring squads with suspect defenses, but with the home court advantage and the hot hand of late, expect Appalachian State to prevail.
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