An ankle injury kept him out of the lineup. Then a concussion. But once he was back and in a groove, Trevis Simpson sparked his teammates to two big home wins – their first back-to-back victories this year.

“It gives us confidence, seeing another teammate roll and get hot – it just boosts us up to go down on defense and get stops,” David Williams told The Carolinian after the Chattanooga game.

Three days earlier, the Spartans had defeated Samford by two. Simpson scored 30 points, and nailed the team’s final 12 points of the game. He was also instrumental in breaking up Samford’s final inbounds play, preserving the win.

Then against Chattanooga, he took it to a new level. He tied the Spartan men’s record for most points in a game, with 41. No Spartan during the Division I era has ever scored so many. It was the highest total in the conference this year, and the third-highest total this season by any player in NCAA Div. I.

That afternoon, ESPN’s Scores web page had Simpson at the top of its “Top Performers” callout list. He’s no stranger to the network. ESPN Television last year named his rim-busting alley-oop dunk at Miami, off a pass by Derrell Armstrong, one of the Top 10 Plays of the Day.

“I don’t care about any of that,” the kinesiology major said of the praise. “I just want to win. I just do what my team needs me to do.”

Williams has made some pivotal goals. Armstrong, third in the SoCon in scoring, and freshman Kayel Locke, averaging about 10 points a game, have been key figures as well.

But during that week, Simpson was simply in a “zone,” as he put it.

Simpson currently has the 14th highest points-per-game average in the nation.

The win over Chattanooga evened the team’s record in the conference, at 4 wins, 4 losses.

Winning two very close games with defensive stops and key baskets changes their outlook. “That gives us confidence as a group,” Coach Wes Miller explained, “and it lets us believe in ourselves more as we enter deeper into conference play.”

The team has some challenging road games down the stretch. And three tough home games:

  • Western Carolina – Thursday, Feb. 14 – 7 p.m.
  • Appalachian State – Sunday, Feb. 17 – 2 p.m.
  • Georgia Southern – Wednesday, Feb. 27 – 7 p.m.

“There wasn’t that belief we can win close games, a couple of weeks ago,” Miller said.

With some close wins and Simpson’s hot hand, now there is.

See more about the team and how to get tickets at www.uncgspartans.com/sports/mbkb/index. Tickets are free for students.

See a highlight reel of Simpson’s ESPN “Top Performance” worthy 41-point flurry.

By Mike Harris, University Relations

Photography by Chris English, University Relations