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UNC Greensboro’s upset bid falls short

The 13th-seeded SoCon champions could not quite get over the hump in a competitive loss to Florida State

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-NC-Greensboro at Florida State IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

The 13 seed UNC Greensboro Spartans made a push late in the second half, but ultimately fell to 4th-seeded Florida State, 64-54, in an East Region First Round matchup.

The Seminoles were able to advance despite not making a three-point shot (0-9), becoming only the second team since 2014 to do so.

Isaiah Miller scored 17 points for UNCG, but the SoCon player of the year was not his usual efficient self offensively, only shooting 7-18 from the field. Keyshaun Langley gave the Spartans a huge boost, hitting 5-9 from deep and scoring 16 points.

The story of the game was FSU’s dominance down low. UNC Greensboro knew it would have a size disadvantage, but provided little resistance to Florida State’s inside presence, allowing the Seminoles to shoot 78 percent on two-pointers for the contest. FSU racked up a 44-16 advantage on paint points, and good interior passing seemed to lead to an easy layup or dunk opportunity any time it wanted one. The Noles also were able to draw several fouls and created a large disparity in free throw attempts for much of the game.

RaiQuan Gray put up 17 points and pulled down seven rebounds, scoring a number of key baskets late, to secure the Seminoles’ sixth consecutive First Round victory. Balsa Koprivica added 13 points and nine rebounds, and Anthony Polite scored 12.

UNCG started off slow, falling behind 23-7 while only hitting one of its first 10 shots and only three of its first 18. The Spartans responded, though, by making nine of their next 14 attempts, cutting the lead to just three at the break.

After a Spartans triple evened the score on the first possession of the second half, Florida State scored the next 11 points on a number of easy, close-range baskets. But over the next several minutes, Greensboro chipped away at the lead by forcing a few more stops on the interior, drawing more fouls and taking opportunities from deep.

With just under six minutes to play, Isaiah Miller made a tremendous athletic play by leaping to reject Polite’s corner three-point attempt, and somehow saving it to a teammate while falling out of bounds. On the other end, he sunk a tough floater to trim Florida State’s lead to 49-48.

Florida State, unfazed, responded with an easy bucket. Miller again trimmed the lead to one on a pair of free throws, but the Seminoles converted another bunny on the following possession.

Miller, the three-time reigning SoCon Defensive Player of the Year, continued to scrap for his team on the defensive end, earning two steals with the Spartans trailing by five points. However, he was bitten by perhaps the only shortfall in his game — free throw shooting. The 63 percent free throw shooter missed the front end of two straight one-and-ones, and his team could get no closer than five points the rest of the way.

The loss caps another strong season for the Spartans, who have made two of the last three tournaments, and were one of the last four teams out for the 2019 edition. Coach Wes Miller is building consistency with his program, but they will lose an incredible talent in Isaiah Miller (provided he doesn’t return for his extra year of eligibility). Many of their other contributors, however, will be back next year as Greensboro continues to search for its first-ever tournament victory.