ATLANTA - Make room, Gardner-Webb. There's another mid-major savoring a win over the big boys.
Kyle Hines scored 25 points and UNC-Greensboro dominated the second half against Georgia Tech, handing the Yellow Jackets a stinging 83-74 loss Friday night.
Following the lead set by Gardner-Webb with its upset win over Kentucky two days earlier, the Spartans (1-0) dominated much of the second half and easily held off Georgia Tech at the end.
``There's so much more parity across the country,'' UNC-Greensboro coach Mike Dement said. ``With each win, the teams at our level grow in confidence. They'll be more of these. They'll be another one this weekend. There may have been another one already.''
Georgia Tech (0-1), an NCAA tournament team last season from the Atlantic Coast Conference, lost its first opener since 1993 and had not dropped an opening game at home since 1980, the start of a 4-23 season that led to the firing of coach Dwane Morrison and ushered in the Bobby Cremins era.
The current coach, Paul Hewitt, said he started telling his players on the first day of practice that this wouldn't be a laugher like so many other opening nights.
``If they didn't get the message, I didn't do a good enough job of getting it across,'' Hewitt said. ``I knew from talking to people around the country that this was a good basketball team.''
The Yellow Jackets went to the locker room with a 43-39 lead after a seesaw first half that included 17 lead changes and nine ties. They shot only 36 percent from the field but made up for it with a dominating 27-14 edge on the boards.
But UNC-Greensboro, from the Southern Conference, began working harder on the boards and took command with a 12-0 spurt early in the second half on the way to one of the biggest wins in school history.
The only one that probably rivals this was a 55-53 victory over Arizona State at the 1996 Great Alaska Shootout. The Spartans had never beaten a major-conference team on its home court, and they were 0-24 against ACC schools.
``It's good to be part of history,'' Hines said. ``This is an unexpected win. It has to be No. 1. It's one of the best wins in our history.''
Georgia Tech never mustered much offensively, hitting just 26-of-68 (38 percent) from the field. The Yellow Jackets clearly have a lot of work to do after losing both Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young to the NBA. Both played only one season in Atlanta before turning pro.
``We've just got to grow and mature as a team,'' said freshman Maurice Miller, who took over for Crittenton at point guard. ``This is just the first game. We've got a long way to go. We've got a lot of time to gel as a team. Once that happens, we'll be unstoppable.''
The Yellow Jackets looked far from unstoppable against UNC-Greensboro.
Anthony Morrow led Georgia Tech with 23 points, but freshmen Gani Lawal (12 points) and Miller (10) were the only other players in double figures.
Lewis Clinch, suspended for much of last season over a violation of the school's academic honor code, had a miserable return to the court. He made only 2-of-13 shots, including 1-of-6 from 3-point range, to finish with 5 points.
Morrow hit a jumper early in the second half to push Georgia Tech to a 45-39 lead, but that was about the last highlight for the Yellow Jackets.
Kendall Toney swished a 3, Ben Stywall got loose for a layup and Hines put the Spartans ahead to stay with another lay-in. Mikko Koivisto followed with yet another layup against a Georgia Tech defense that often looked lost and confused, and Daniel Oliver finished the run with a 3-pointer that pushed UNC-Greensboro to a 51-45 lead.
The Spartans led the rest of the way, pushing the margin as high as 14 points. Georgia Tech got to 74-67 on Lawal's dunk with 1:19 left, but UNC-Greensboro closed it out at the foul line, hitting eight straight down the stretch.
Koivisto scored 16 points, hitting 3-of-6 outside the arc. Johnson added 11 points.
After getting outrebounded 27-14 in the first half, including 17 at the offensive end, UNC-Greensboro turned it around over the final 20 minutes. The Spartans had 22-15 rebounding edge and gave up only four offensive boards.
``We hung around in the first half without rebounding,'' Dement said. ``I knew if we started rebounding, we might be able to pull this thing out.''
The Spartans did, and now they get to savor a victory that feels especially sweet for a little-known school surrounded by ACC powerhouses.
``Because of who we are and being in Greensboro, right there in the middle of ACC country,'' Dement said, ``this is going to be a fun win for all the folks back home.''
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)