Last Thursday, UNCG Men’s Basketball (19-3, 8-1 SoCon) faced off against The Citadel (10-10, 2-7 SoCon) at the Greensboro Coliseum. Coming off of a three-game win streak after their ugly loss to Wofford a few weeks ago, UNCG needed a good game to keep the momentum going. That is exactly what they did, beating The Citadel 83-60.
It was a competitive opening for the first ten minutes, but UNCG went on a 10-2 run midway through the first half, and went into halftime with a 22-point lead, fueled chiefly by a fantastic team defensive performance. This is made even more impressive when we consider the fact that Citadel has the highest-scoring offense in the entire nation. One player who stood out on defense was forward James Dickey, totaling 15 rebounds, three blocks and two steals, to go along with 12 points on 5/5 shooting on the offensive end. It was his best performance since returning from a foot injury he suffered in December.
“[Dickey] felt like last weekend was the first time [he] looked like himself, just in terms of how he is playing possession-by-possession,” Head Coach Wes Miller said after the game. “Tonight he looked even more like himself. Now you’re seeing who we think he is in the stat column.”
Dickey was not the only player who did well during this game. Senior guard Demetrius Troy broke a record: He achieved the impressive career statline of 400 assists, becoming the sixth player in program history to ever do so.
Coach Miller was unsurprised. “He’s deserving of it. He’s a great passer and has been a great floor leader for us here.”
Redshirt freshman Kaleb Hunter became a huge presence off the bench, putting up eight more points than the next highest scorer. He dropped 21 points in 23 minutes, along with four rebounds. He was 7/10 shooting and 4/4 from the line. 17 of his points came in the first half.
“[Hunter] was really aggressive attacking in the open floor and attacking to the middle of the floor against their set defense,” Coach Miller said. “He got a rhythm and the ball started to go in for him from behind the three. He just keeps improving as a player and his role keeps improving.”
The team has drawn together after an ugly 29-point home loss to Wofford on Jan. 10, winning five games in a row. Coach Miller shared his thoughts on his team’s mindset following the loss.
“We were really disappointed, not just with the result of the Wofford game, but how we’d been playing for two or three weeks leading up to the Wofford game. Sometimes you need a result to kind of kick your butt into gear. I’m not saying that did or didn’t happen, but it’s plausible to think that way.”
Two days later, the Spartans faced off against the Mercer Bears (8-13, 3-6 SoCon). They narrowly attained the victory, 88-81, after squandering a 22-point second half lead. That victory put our Spartans on a five-game winning streak, and keeps their momentum moving forward.
Sophomore guard Isaiah Miller led the team with 22 points on 10/19 shooting. Notable defensive efforts came from the likes of Dickey, who had a career-high four steals, and Francis Alonso, who had seven assists and two blocks.
UNCG is now 19-3, becoming one of the first teams in the NCAA to reach 19 wins. All of the other teams—Gonzaga, Houston, Michigan and Nevada—are listed in the AP Poll. The Spartans are now 8-1 in the SoCon thus far, which is impressive considering how competitive the league is this season.
The team’s next matchup is on Jan. 31 at the Greensboro Coliseum at 7:00pm against VMI. UNCG’s home stretch ends on Feb. 7 when they host Samford. After that, the team goes on the road in matchups against Chattanooga, Furman and Wofford.