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SoCon Basketball: Power Rankings and Thursday Recap

UNC Greensboro gets huge road win at East Tennessee State to highlight Thursday night’s action

NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at NC-Greensboro
UNCG All-SoCon Guard Diante Baldwin
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Four games in two nights highlighted Southern Conference basketball action this week, including the showcase game of the week between UNC Greensboro and East Tennessee State on Thursday night in Johnson City.

UNC Greensboro 83 East Tennessee State 79

UNC Greensboro became the first team in the Southern Conference to knock off both of last year’s conference title game teams, as the Spartans came up with a huge 83-79 win over East Tennessee State Thursday night at Freedom Hall.

Having already beaten reigning SoCon champion Chattanooga (73-68) last week, the Spartans took care of the Buccanneers by making clutch shots down the stretch. The win put UNC Greensboro in first place in the conference, for now.

Despite falling behind 9-0 to start, the Spartans found their game midway through the opening frame. Trailing 20-10 with 10:24 remaining in the first half, UNC Greensboro went on an 18-4 run to take a 28-24 lead, as the Spartans started to find their range from three.

The second half saw 11 lead changes in what quickly became one of the games of the young season in the SoCon.

ETSU’s David Burrell scored five straight points on a dunk and a three, giving the Bucs a 72-69 lead with 3:35 remaining. UNCG’s Spanish assassin Francisco Alonso answered with a pair of foul shots to get the Spartans within one, and following a T.J. Cromer miss on the other end, White canned another triple to give the Spartans a 74-72 lead with just under three minutes left.

From there, Burrell continued his strong play by hitting another trifecta, igniting the rowdy home crowd of 4,112 fans, to put the Bucs up one with 2:36 left. It would end up being the final lead the Bucs would hold, as the Spartans closed the game on a 9-4 run to take the four-point win.

Star of the game:

Alonso led all scorers with 24 points, connecting on 7-of-10 shots from the field, including three of his five shots from three. He was also an impressive 7-8 from the charity stripe in the win. Center RJ White added 18 points on 6-13 shooting from the field, including 5-7 from beyond the arc.

Stat of the game:

UNCG was unconscious from three-point range for most of the night, knocking down 13-20 from long range, which helped off-set a slow start and an early nine-point deficit on the road. The Spartans also held a commanding 32-18 advantage in points in the paint.

Odds and ends:

There were three other games in the Southern Conference this week.

The only other game Thursday night saw VMI hold off Western Carolina, 79-78. Keith Smith sealed the game by blocking on a potential game-winning three by the Catamounts as time expired.

On Wednesday night, Mercer got a huge road win, holding off Samford, 68-65, in Birmingham. Led by a season-high-tying 14 triples, and a double-double from preseason All-SoCon selection Stephon Jelks (14 pts, 11 rebs), the Bears improved to 8-10 overall and 2-3 in Southern Conference play.

In the other game on Wednesday night, Chattanooga was able to keep pace with the the other one-loss programs in the league by getting an 83-73 win over The Citadel at the Roundhouse. The Mocs got a season-high 20 points from Jonathan Burroughs-Cook, marking his second-straight game in double figures.

Power Rankings:

  1. UNCG (13-5, 4-1 SoCon)
  2. Chattanooga (13-4, 4-1 SoCon)
  3. ETSU (13-4, 3-1 SoCon)
  4. Furman (10-7, 3-1 SoCon)
  5. Mercer (7-10, 2-3 SoCon)
  6. Samford (12-6, 3-2 SoCon)
  7. Wofford (6-11, 1-3 SoCon)
  8. The Citadel (9-10, 2-4 SoCon)
  9. VMI (4-11, 1-3 SoCon)
  10. Western Carolina (5-12, 0-4 SoCon)