Beyond the Scoreboard: UNC Greensboro claims SoCon championship

The Spartans will learn their fate on Sunday (WLOS Staff).JPG

(WLOS) – Erasing the demons from a close loss to the same program in this game a year ago, UNC Greensboro found redemption Monday night at U.S. Cellular Center.

The top-seeded Spartans played superb defense that shackled No. 2 East Tennessee State and produced a 62-47 win in the championship game of the Southern Conference tournament.

Greensboro now advances to the NCAA tourney for the first time since 2001.

These same two teams played for the SoCon title last year and ETSU won 79-74.

But Greensboro (26-7) took control of a defensive struggle early in the second half with a 10-0 run, holding the Buccaneers (25-9) without a point for more than five minutes.

Jordy Kuiper nailed back-to-back 3-pointers that started the 10-0 run.

ETSU never found its offense and didn’t make a field goal for the first eight minutes of the second half.

Bucs’ senior guard Desonta Bradford, the SoCon Player of the Year, finished with just eight points on 1-of-9 shooting. He injured an ankle early in the second half but came back after being taped up.

ETSU, often playing out of control on offense thanks to a harassing Greensboro defense, shot just 31 percent from the floor and converted just 3-of-16 3-point attempts.

Jalan McCloud led the Bucs with 15 points.

“I’m so proud to coach these guys,” said Spartans coach Wes Miller, a Greensboro native who took over the program at age 28 seven years ago at midseason with a 2-14 record.

The former UNC walk-on has now won two straight SoCon regular-season titles and has won 51 games the past two seasons.

“To watch these guys celebrate like this, it’s overwhelming.”

Greensboro shot just 39 percent from the floor. Kuiper and Demetrius Troy had 13 points each.

An uneven and ugly first half ended in a 25-25 tie.

Neither team could find an offensive rhythm and both took a lot of bad shots, with a combined 36 missed field-goal attempts. The Spartans and Bucs were a combined 7-of-26 on 3-pointers.

Both leading scorers struggled and each finished with five points in the opening 20 minutes. Bradford was 1-for-6 from the floor and Greensboro’s Francis Alonso went 2-for-9.

With a near sellout of over 5,500 Monday night, the tourney drew more than 30,000 fans over five days in Asheville.

The event has been held in Asheville 19 times and is scheduled to play in the U.S. Cellular Center through 2021, when the country’s oldest collegiate tournament will celebrate its 100th year.

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