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Isaiah Miller shoots a jump shot during basketball game. Coaches and fans wear masks in the background.
Isaiah Miller shoots a jump shot during basketball game. Coaches and fans wear masks in the background.

The UNC Greensboro men’s basketball team was in Greenville, South Carolina, a couple of weeks ago, preparing for a nationally televised matchup against Southern Conference foe Furman. 

Just hours before tip-off, Head Coach Wes Miller got word that the game would have to be rescheduled due to COVID-19 cases within Furman’s program. The team swiftly packed its bags and returned to Greensboro that afternoon. In the meantime, a home game against Mercer was scheduled for Wednesday. 

The shuffling of schedules and last-minute cancellations have become the new normal for college athletics. UNCG has had seven of its games canceled or postponed this season. While the circumstances have been challenging, Miller and his team are focused on gratitude and perspective. 

“Early on, I think we let those cancellations frustrate us. What we’ve tried to do here in the last month or so is put this in perspective a little bit,” Miller said. “Number one, we’re getting a chance to still play basketball in the middle of a pandemic. We need to be thankful for that. Number two, we have a great group of people that really like being around each other and like working together. That’s unique.” 

That new perspective seems to have made an impact on the on-court performance. UNCG is heading into tonight’s rescheduled matchup against Furman with a seven-game winning streak. The team is 13-5 overall and 8-2 in conference play, and now ranks No. 21 in CollegeInsider.com’s Mid-Major Top 25 poll

Senior Isaiah Miller, the SoCon Preseason Player of the Year, has been leading the way, averaging 18.6 points per game and racking up a total of 39 steals so far this season. 

Many of the squad’s younger players have stepped into the spotlight as well. Sophomore Keyshaun Langley leads the team in assists and is the team’s second-leading scorer. Juniors Angelo Allegri, Kaleb Hunter, and Mohammed Abdulsalam have also been key to the team’s success. 

UNCG’s seven-game winning streak has included three games at home in a nearly empty Greensboro Coliseum. Not having fans in the stands has been another difficult adjustment for the team. 

“We miss the fans. I am pleading with every Spartan fan out there, whenever we’re allowed, please come back. We miss you like crazy,” Miller said. “I think it has been a challenge all year to bring that electrifying energy to games that’s just not there, whether you’re here or on the road. We’ve tried to do that within our own bench, within our own program, and I’m really proud of how our guys have done that. We try to bring energy every game collectively.”

In years past, the team’s focus has always been on the Southern Conference Tournament. Winning a SoCon title means an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Last year, a disappointing loss in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament ended the team’s season, and ultimately, the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the pandemic. 

The SoCon Tournament is scheduled for March 5-8 in Asheville, North Carolina. The Spartans are currently No. 1 in the league and have a real shot of entering the tournament as the No. 1 seed and the team to beat. 

But as the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, nothing is guaranteed, and circumstances can change drastically within hours.  

“Hopefully we do have the SoCon Tournament, and hopefully we continue to do well in those events. But we know that’s not promised, and so we’re just going to try to make the most out of today.”

UNCG faces off against Furman on Monday, Feb. 8, at 5 p.m, and again on Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 5 p.m. Both games will be broadcast on ESPNU. 

UNCG Athletics will host a Virtual Student Appreciation Night on Wednesday with giveaways for students. Click here to register. The deadline to register is Tuesday, Feb. 9, at 5 p.m. 

Most men’s basketball games are streamed via ESPN+. Visit uncgspartans.com for more information and to view the full schedule.

Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Communications
Photography courtesy of UNCG Athletics

 
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