GREENSBORO, NC. — With our Game of the Day picks, we have decided to steer clear from the traditional power five match-ups, or the obvious selections that would feature a pair of top 25 teams.
Instead, we want to focus on intriguing games between smaller schools from across the country. On Saturday, fans get treated to a Southern Conference opener that features a pair of teams that have wins over ACC teams from the state of North Carolina this season in non-conference play.
On one side, you have the Wofford Terriers. All eyes were on the Terriers on December 20th, when they knocked off the then-fifth ranked North Carolina Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, NC. Wofford never trailed in the second half, and held on down the stretch for the 79-75 victory. They come in having won their last five contests, and will look to extend their streak to six when they open conference play.
Their opponent on Saturday also knows a ting or two about road upsets. The UNC Greensboro Spartans have an 81-76 win over the NC State Wolfpack on their resume from December 16th, and lost by just six points against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. With five wins over their past six games, the Spartans have emerged as a legitimate threat in the race for the Southern Conference title, much like the Terriers.
Here’s what you need to know in advance of Saturday’s showdown between Wofford and UNC Greensboro, which takes place at 5:00pm EST inside the Greensboro Coliseum.
Just 10 days ago, all eyes were on the Wofford Terriers as they pulled off the biggest upset of the season so far. Back on December 20th, the Terriers knocked off North Carolina on the road, 79-75, for their first-ever win over a top 25 team.
Now, the Terriers have returned from their Christmas break, and are looking to extend their winning streak to six when they visit UNC Greensboro. Back in 2016-17, the Terriers split the regular season with the Spartans, but fell to UNC Greensboro in the Southern Conference Tournament.
Wofford boasts one of the top scoring guards in the country, in junior Fletcher Magee. Through 12 games, Magee ranks fifth in the country in scoring, averaging 24.3 points per contest. He has 20 or more points in six straight games, and he has nine such performances over the course of the season. Magee has topped the 30-point mark in three of those games.
If his scoring production isn’t enough to cement Magee as one of the top scoring guards in the country, his shooting percentages will. He is shooting 57% (102-of-179) from the floor, 54.9% (56-of-102) from three point range, and a perfect 100% (32-of-32) from the free throw line this season. Look for Magee to have another strong game, and expect the likes of Cameron Jackson and Nathan Hoover to continue their strong play as the Terriers look for their sixth straight win.
The UNC Greensboro Spartans are not to be overlooked, and they possess a star scoring guard of their own who has been a big factor in their recent stretch of five wins in a six game span.
Junior Francis Alonso is having himself a career year for the Spartans. His 17.8 points, 2.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.3 steals per game are all career high marks, while he is shooting above 44% from the field for the third straight season (44.8%). Alonso has four straight games with double-digit points, and he put up 36 points in a triple-overtime win over the Liberty Flames back on December 2nd.
While Magee and Alonso will go head-to-head on Saturday, the Spartans will look to take the edge inside and do some damage around the basket. Sophomore forward James Dickey is averaging 8.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, while senior Marvin Smith ranks second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.5 points per contest. The duo, along with 6’9” senior Jordy Kuiper, will look to neutralize the front court of Wofford, and finish around the basket to take some pressure off Alonso and the rest of the guards.
One thing that the Spartans have going for them is depth. UNC Greensboro has nine different players who have played in all 13 games and average double-digit minutes per night out. All nine players average at least 3.2 points and 1.3 rebounds per game, so they all contribute when they step on the floor.
Players to Watch
Wofford – Cameron Jackson
Forward Cameron Jackson has continued to take steps forward over the course of his career, and is emerging as a star for Wofford during his junior season. The 6’8” forward from Winchester, VA is averaging career-highs in both rebounds (6.5), blocks (1.3), and steals (2.1) per game, while adding in 12.4 points and 1.5 assists. He ranks second on the team in scoring, and is the team’s top rebounder. Over his last two games, Jackson is averaging 16.5 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks in a pair of wins for the Terriers. Jackson has a strong impact on both ends of the floor, and contributes in several different ways. With Magee and Alonso battling it out on the back end, Jackson will need to be on his game if the Terriers want to have an edge inside.
UNC Greensboro – James Dickey
He may only be a sophomore, but James Dickey is having himself a strong season up front for the Spartans. Even though he missed their last game against the Southeastern Univ. Fires, he is averaging 8.1 points and a team-best 8.7 rebounds per contest. He has one double-double to his name this season, and has flirted with several more this season. Dickey was a big factor on the glass to start the season, as he opened up 2017-18 with seven or more rebounds in each of his first 10 games. He was held to just two points and three rebounds before fouling out against NC State, but posted 10 and five against the UNC Asheville Bulldogs in his last game. His numbers won’t blow you away, but Dickey’s ability to be a factor on the glass could be the difference between a win or a loss for the Spartans.
Both teams have road wins over a team from the ACC on their resume. With Wofford’s win over the Tar Heels coming in their last game before the Christmas break, all eyes will be on the Terriers to see if they can keep their momentum going.
As for the Spartans, three of their four losses this season have come by seven points or less, and they have three double digit wins during their recent 5-1 stretch. Both teams are trending in the right direction, but one streak has to come to an end.
As we all know, winning on the road in conference play is no easy feat. While Wofford has proven their ability to remain competitive on the road, the Spartans are 7-1 on their home floor. The success of UNC Greensboro at home will continue on Saturday, and the Spartans will pick up their 10th win of the season in a close contest against the Terriers.
UNC Greensboro – 69
Wofford – 64
– T. Bennett