The Virginia Cavaliers held the top spot in the new E News All Sports men’s college basketball poll.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Jordy Kuiper and Demetrius Troy each scored 13 points, and UNC Greensboro pulled away from East Tennessee State to win the Southern Conference championship 62-47 on Monday night and earn its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2001.
James Dickey III dominated the paint in the second half and finished with nine points, eight rebounds and five blocks for the Spartans, who avenged last year’s championship game loss to ETSU.
UNCG (27-7) prevailed despite a poor shooting night from leading scorer and tournament MVP Francis Alonso, who was held to six points on 2-of-11 shooting.
Jalan McLoud had 15 points and eight rebounds to lead ETSU (25-9).
The Spartans did it with defense.
UNC Greensboro came in with the No. 1 defense in the Southern Conference and showed why, holding ETSU to 30.6 percent shooting. The Buccaneers made just 3 of 16 shots from beyond the arc.
Trailing by 1 early in the second half, the Spartans got a huge lift from Kuiper, as the 6-foot-9 left-hander 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.
The teams split during the regular season, with East Tennessee State winning by eight at home in January. UNC Greensboro bounced back to win by 18 a few weeks later.
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 size could hurt them in the NCAA Tournament.
ETSU: The Buccaneers are likely to earn an NIT berth after a solid season in which they finished second in the regular season.
UNCG: The Spartans are dancing for the first time in 18 years and likely will be a No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament.