You could feel the Spartan spirit as a blue and gold wave of students, faculty, and staff made their way from the UNCG Baseball Stadium to the Greensboro Coliseum during UNC Greensboro’s third annual “Storm the Streets” spirit march on Tuesday, Nov. 9.
The excitement was palpable, with fans eager to cheer on the men’s basketball team during their first game of the season in person after a year supporting the team through a screen.
A tailgate party was held before the mile-long march began, where students enjoyed food, music, and spirit giveaways, including Spartan foam helmets, beads, bandanas, and temporary tattoos.
After the Storm, a new era dawned for UNCG men’s basketball, and the bright lights shone on a pair of Spartans newcomers.
De’Monte Buckingham scored 28 points in his UNCG debut, leading the Spartans to a 57-53 victory over crosstown rival N.C. A&T.
It was the 175th victory in Mike Jones’ coaching career, but his first at UNCG since taking over the program in the spring.
After a year with no spectators allowed because of the global coronavirus pandemic, a big, boisterous crowd of 6,948 turned out for the game, including Olympian Paul Chelimo ’14 and student trio 1aChord who sang the national anthem and performed at halftime.
“It was amazing,” Buckingham said. “Getting our fans to come out and support us was amazing, especially last year dealing with COVID. It was special to be in front of a great crowd and to put on a show for them.”
UNCG trailed at halftime and by as many as 10 points early in the second half before rallying to beat the Aggies. The Spartans did it on defense, a staple of Jones’ teams.
“We fixed some things in the second half that made it tougher for A&T to get to the basket,” Jones said. “That was a big key to our defense in the second half. I also thought we were grittier and tougher than we were in the first half. We put more pressure on the ball and kept them out of the paint.”
On offense, Buckingham led the way. The graduate transfer from Cal State-Bakersfield made 9-of-12 shots from the field, including a pair of critical 3-pointers late in the game.
The first, a jump shot from in front of the Spartans bench with 3:01 left, gave UNCG the lead for good. The second, made 44 seconds later, pushed the lead to four points and ignited the crowd.
“Coach always puts us through adverse situations during practice, and that helped us when we were down by 10,” Buckingham said. “We got together as a team and said we were going to be fine. It feels even better when Coach tells us we’re going to be fine. We eased our way back into the game, one play at a time.”
Power forward Mohammed Abdulsalam chipped in eight points and grabbed 11 rebounds for UNCG, which held A&T to seven baskets and 22.6 percent shooting in the second half.
The Spartans are coming off a 21-9 season, a SoCon championship title – the third in program history – and the chance to compete in the Big Dance for the second time in four years.
View the schedule for this season and purchase tickets at uncgspartans.com/sports/mens-basketball.
Story by Alexandra McQueen and Jeff Mills, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane and Jiyoung Park, University Communications
Videography by Grant Evan Gilliard and Darian Phillips, University Communications