The Citadel men’s basketball team lost a close battle at UNCG on Saturday evening, falling to the SoCon-leading Spartans 81-72 inside the Greensboro Coliseum.
UNCG (16-5, 7-1 SoCon) jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead after The Citadel (9-13, 2-7 SoCon) was held scoreless for the first three minutes of the game. Kaelon Harris got the Bulldogs on the board with a free throw but the Spartans responded with two straight baskets to push their lead to seven. Preston Parks finally scored the first field goal for the Bulldogs at the 14:37 mark to make it an 8-3 game.
Heading into the under-eight media timeout with UNCG leading 14-12, both teams had combined for just nine made field goals in the game. But on the first play out of the timeout, Leandro Allende hit a turnaround jumper in the paint to tie the game at 14-14 as the Bulldogs used a 6-0 run over a two-minute span to chip away at the lead.
A three-pointer by Matt Frierson with 4:39 remaining gave The Citadel its first lead of the game but UNCG countered with a layup on its next possession to take a 21-20 advantage. The Bulldogs then hit three-pointers on back-to-back possessions, making it a 26-25 game with 2:40 left in the first half.
Frierson continued to be money from downtown as he hit his third trey of the day with 47 seconds left in the frame to give the ‘Dogs an one-point lead. But the Spartans responded with back-to-back layups, including one with three seconds left on the clock, to take a 32-29 lead into halftime. Parks and Frierson led the squad with nine points each while defensively head coach Duggar Baucom and company forced the Spartans to turn the ball over 12 times.
Warren Sledge opened the scoring for The Citadel in the second half with a tough layup in transition and Ezekiel Balogun, in his first-career start, followed with a three-pointer to give the Bulldogs a quick 5-0 spurt and a two-point lead. The ‘Dogs extended their lead to 39-34 after scoring the next two times down the floor, giving them an 8-2 run to open the second frame.
The Citadel continued to lead until the 8:17 mark when UNCG hit a three-pointer and then followed with an old fashioned three-point play on the next possession, giving them a 62-59 advantage and its first lead since the 19:05 mark.
UNCG pushed its lead to as many as nine in the waning moments of the second half as the Bulldogs went two minutes without scoring and 7:45 without a field goal. Parks ended the drought with a layup to pull The Citadel within six. Following a missed jumper by the Spartans on their next possession, Parks made another bucket to make it a four-point contest with 1:44 remaining.
But the next time down the floor the Spartans got two offensive rebounds off misses, allowing them to run significant time off the clock before being fouled. UNCG then made five free throws in the last minute of action to help them clinch the 81-72 win.
Parks shined again for the Bulldogs, dropping 26 points for his second consecutive 20-point game. Najdawi also had a solid performance, scoring 16 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 28 minutes of action. The sophomore finished a perfect 10-for-10 from the charity stripe. Frierson rounded out the double-digit scorers for the ‘Dogs, making three three-pointers to finish with 11 points. Frierson has now made at least one three-pointer in seven straight games.