By Jake Moore, Staff Writer
Cloaked in all black uniforms, the Mocs headed back to the locker room with all the momentum at the end of the first half, the crowd was ecstatic and the team looked satisfied with their performance but the UNCG Spartans came out of the locker room determined, forcing numerous turnovers which doomed the Mocs to a 78-63 loss at home.
“It feels like we can conquer the first run a team brings, then once they hit us again in the second half, as unit, we hit the panic button,” said Donovann Toatley, Upper Marlboro, MD. “I think that just comes to our maturity and our experience.”
The game opened with several Moc turnovers, foreshadowing a major issue in the second half, which led to easy Spartan buckets, causing the Mocs to use a timeout within two minutes of action.
David Jean-Baptiste, Miami, got the Mocs on the board with a three followed by a slam from Roman Villa, Barcelona.
The Mocs put together some great offensive possessions including a bounce pass from Donovann Toatley to Kevin Easley, Indianapolis.
Midway through the first, the Spartans were able to string together a modest run but excellent post moved, with an acrobatic layup from David Jean-Baptiste—forcing a UNCG timeout.
The Mocs were able to keep things close following the timeout eventually managing to take the lead with just over three minutes remaining in the half but UNCG quickly regained the advantage with a monster slam by Isaiah Miller.
However, Ramon Vila was not discouraged. Vila was a rebound vacuum in the first, absorbing eight rebounds. He was also able to come through in the clutch by drawing key fouls leading to Mocs buckets.
At the buzzer the Mocs led the Spartans, 31-28. While heading to the locker room, David Jean Baptiste spent an extra moment on the court, hyping up the blackout crowd.
“I think we did a good job in the first half,” said Thomas Smallwood, Bordeaux, France. “Offensively, we had a lot of momentum.”
The second half opened with erratic play by the mocs, passes landing in the stands, missed defensive assignments and some questionable turnovers. The Spartans managed to regain the lead after five minutes of play in the second half.
Thomas Smallwood managed to stop a dangerous Spartan run with a hard-fought layup. Smallwood repeated this minutes later with big-time slam in front of the Mocs’ student section.
The Mocs were able to jab at the UNCG lead but Mocs’ fouls and defensive lapses made it difficult for the Mocs to throw a haymaker of a run at the Spartans.
UNCG was able to find the Mocs weaknesses however, a pressing defense, ability to score off turnovers and overall making more critical use of offensive possessions compared to the Mocs.
Basketball is a game of runs, and tonight the Mocs were outplayed by the Spartans in a 63-78 loss.
“I think the most important thing to keep in mind right now is we are in a position in the league where our record at the end of the day won’t be that important,” said Toatley. “I think the most important thing right now is to keep our head up and find confidence and learn from whatever we do, whether we win or lose, just learn from it.”
The Mocs fall to 6-7 in the Southern Conference and 11-15 overall. The Mocs will head off on a three game, SOCON road trip starting February 16 at Samford.