The Spartans rolled into SEC power Arkansas’ Bud Walton Arena to face the No. 14 ranked team in front of a loud, sold-out crowd. UNCG emerged victorious, 78-72.
It was their first win over a Top 25 team ever.
It was the first Southeastern Conference (SEC) win for UNCG in program history.
Even Dick Vitale was excited. “MY TEAM OF THE NIGHT: UNC Greensboro,” he posted on X (formerly Twitter).
Just how big was it? UNCG Magazine asked a few former Spartan stars to put it in perspective:
- Tom Martin ’70 starred on the very first UNCG team, and has been rooting for the teams ever since. He kept his eye on the team as they traveled to take on two SEC powers. “When you battle Vanderbilt and lose by four points and then you play the 14th ranked Arkansas Hogs on their loud home court, this is clearly, in my opinion, the best week for Spartan hoops in our history. We battled Arkansas the whole game and never let them take the lead in the second half. Proud to be a Spartan and wear the blue and gold!”
- Kyle Hines ’08, four-time EuroLeague champion whose UNCG games vs Stephen Curry’s Davidson are legendary, exulted at the victory. “First win against a ranked opponent. Great to see the program get some national recognition!!!!” This week, he put it in context. “I think the win ranks among the top of UNCG victories in history. To beat a ranked non-conference opponent on their home court is certainly not an easy thing to do. This is definitely the signature win of the “Mike Jones era” and shows the positive direction of the program. The best part, to me, was to see how proud the alumni base was for the team on the national recognition it received.”
- Scott Hartzell ’96, who helped guide UNCG to its first NCAA Tournament bid, called it “obviously a fantastic performance and signature win for Coach Jones and the program. Hopefully, a win like that can help springboard the team onto a special season. I’m excited to watch their progress!”
- Keyford Langley ’92, who still holds the program record for three-point percentage after three decades, has a unique perspective: sons Keyshaun and Kobe are outstanding players. The program has had some really talented teams in the past, the former star explains. He believes the coaches instill a mindset of “Why not us? Why not now?” And it was evident last week. “It’s the best win in the history of the program for so many reasons. …The win almost symbolizes the identity of the program as a whole. Blue-collar, gritty, under-the-radar, fighting-for-inches types of teams. These players know and believe that they can compete and win big games.”
This team has its own stars. Three Spartans scored double figures at Arkansas, including Keyshaun Langley with a game-high 23 points. Mikeal Brown-Jones had 17 points and Joryam Saizonou had 12.
A stats summary by UNCG Athletics tells the tale:
- UNCG outshot Arkansas in three-pointers, 37.5-17.4%.
- The Spartans edged the Razorbacks with points in the paint, 32-30, and rebounds, 32-30.
- UNCG had eight steals to Arkansas’ four.
- UNCG also had the edge in field goals, 48.1-43.6%.
The program has had big milestones over the years. In 1996, its first Big South Tournament Championship and entry into the Div. I NCAA Tournament. Its first Southern Conference championship in 2001, with Nathan Jameson named first-team Academic All-America. The first ACC win, at Georgia Tech in 2007. The first victory in the NIT, 2019.
And this is one more moment to savor – for fans anyway. The coaching staff and team have their attention on upcoming contests: three games on the road in the Baha Mar Hoops Nassau Championship. Fans can catch their Spartans on FloHoops (https://flosports.link/44Id3KU) in this weekend’s tournament.
Then more, big non-conference games await in December. The SoCon season starts Jan. 3. Let’s go Spartans!
By Mike Harris and Denise Archetto