East Tennessee State’s men’s basketball team lost for the first time in almost two months Monday night, falling 74-56 to UNC Greensboro and ending a 16-game winning streak that had been the longest in the nation.
The Bucs (22-5, 13-1 Southern Conference) were trying to break the school record for consecutive victories. UNCG (20-6, 11-2) won for the ninth time in its past 10 games.
James Dickey had eight of UNCG’s 14 blocked shots. Both of those totals were school records.
“I just thought like we got manhandled the entire game,” ETSU coach Steve Forbes said. “They blocked 14 shots at the rim. I guess they were surprised Dickey was standing there.”
A night of errant shooting put the Bucs behind early and they never could completely recover. They never held the lead as the Spartans shot 49 percent and hit 11 of 20 from 3-point range. ETSU had been holding opponents under 40 percent.
“It’s kind of been coming,” Forbes said. “We haven’t played well this week. I believe this. You’re either getting better or you’re getting worse. And we’re not getting better this week.”
The Bucs’ previous loss was Dec. 16 to Xavier.
Francis Alonso scored 20 points to lead the Spartans. Demetrius Troy added 17 and Marvin Smith had 13.
Desonta Bradford led the Bucs with 21 points, the only ETSU player in double figures.
“We really only had one player show up and play, and that was Desonta Bradford,” Forbes said. “Everybody else was a deer in the headlights.”
The Spartans forced the action early and jumped out to a 27-14 advantage. The Bucs couldn’t make anything, missing 12 of 13 shots at one point, many from in close.
ETSU hung tough despite not being able to connect, and the shots eventually started falling.
Somehow, when Jalan McCloud swished a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer, the Bucs trailed just 33-31 and ran into the locker room with as much momentum a team shooting 32 percent and trailing on the scoreboard could have.
It didn’t last.
UNCG began the second half much like it started the first, pulling back ahead 50-39 on a drive by Dickey. That forced Forbes to call time out with 12:21 remaining as ETSU went cold again, making four of its first 16 shots in the second half.
Jordy Kuiper, UNCG’s big man, then connected on a 3-pointer for a 53-39 lead with just over 11 minutes left. UNCG’s biggest lead was 20 in the final minute.
Bradford was 8-of-22 shooting from the field and 1-for-7 on 3-pointers. Alonso was 6-for-13 and 3-for-7 on 3-pointers.
The rest of the team combined for 12 baskets.
UNCG came in leading the conference in scoring defense and held the Bucs to their lowest points total of the season. ETSU’s previous low was 61 against Kentucky.
“I just think we like to try to keep them out of the paint,” Spartans coach Wes Miller said. “We like to try to keep them from getting downhill on us. I thought we gave a great effort to do that. They’re just so elite off the bounce that they’re going to get down there a lot. I thought the only chance we had at that point was to try to make plays on the ball.”
ETSU shot 30 percent from the field, went 11-for-18 from the free-throw line and had four assists as a team.
“We didn’t share the ball,” Forbes said. “Everybody was trying to make plays on their own.”
The Bucs play at Western Carolina on Saturday at 2 p.m. in their final road game of the season. They close the regular season with home three home games, Feb. 20 against The Citadel, Feb. 23 against Wofford and Feb. 25 against Furman.