UNC Greensboro smothers ETSU to win SoCon title 62-47
By STEVE REED
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) When 6-foot-9 forward Jordy Kuiper was in high school, his coach would make him run "suicide" sprints if he took a shot outside the lane.
That changed when Kuiper arrived at UNC Greensboro, where coaches began working on his jumper.
"They told me by the time I was a senior I would be able to knock down big shots," Kuiper said.
Kuiper did just that on Monday night, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the second half to help UNC Greensboro defeat East Tennessee State 62-47 to win the Southern Conference championship and earn its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2001.
Demetrius Troy added 13 points, and James Dickey III dominated the paint in the second half. He finished with nine points, eight rebounds and five blocks for the Spartans, who avenged last year's championship game loss to ETSU.
The Spartans broke open a tie game at halftime behind Kuiper, as the lefty knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to spark a 9-0 run. The Buccaneers went nearly eight minutes without a field goal to open the second half and never recovered.
Kuiper scored off an offensive rebound with 4:40 left to give the Spartans their first double-digit lead. Troy added the dagger with 1:30 left when he buried a 3-pointer from the left wing to stretch the lead to 14.
UNCG held ETSU to 30.6 percent shooting.
The Buccaneers made just 3 of 16 shots from beyond the arc and went nearly eight minutes without a field goal to start the second half.
"You have to give Greensboro the credit. We just couldn't get it going offensively," ETSU coach Steve Forbes said. "They took us out of our rhythm. When we did get to the basket we just couldn't finish."
That defense allowed UNCG (27-7) to prevail despite a poor shooting night from leading scorer and tournament MVP Francis Alonso, who was held to six points on 2-of-11 shooting.
ETSU: The Buccaneers need to find some offense next year after struggling in the championship game from the field, particularly from beyond the arc.
UNCG: The Spartans have some skill players, but a lack of overall size and depth could hurt them in the NCAA Tournament.
As painful as it was, UNCG coach Wes Miller kept last year's runner-up trophy on display in his office so his players could see it every time they came in for a visit.
"It motivated us," Miller said.
It was the second straight year UNCG entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed. Last year, the Spartans' second-half defense began to crumble in the loss to the Buccaneers.
"It left a bad taste in our mouths," UNCG senior Marvin Smith Jr. said. "We got away from our defensive principles last year. We knew defense would lead us to the championship because that is what we preach."
Forbes' name continues to pop up in coaching circles despite recently signing a contract extension through the 2022-23 season. He said he expects to stay at ETSU unless something were to come along that would be a "life-changing experience."
McLOUD LEADS THE WAY
WANTED: BETTER SHOOTING
Alonso and Smith combined to shoot 2 of 13 from 3-point range, to which Miller quipped, "Yeah, you guys can't do that in the NCAAs."
ETSU: Forbes said he doesn't expect the Buccaneers to receive an NIT berth despite a solid season. He said it will likely be the team's final game since playing in the CIT isn't what his team signed up for.
UNCG: The Spartans are dancing for the first time in 17 years and likely will be a No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
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Updated March 6, 2018