UNCG, App State Punch Tickets To Men’s NCAA Tournament
The men’s basketball teams at UNC-Greensboro and Appalachian State are going dancing.
Monday night, the Spartans and the Mountaineers both punched their tickets to the 2021 NCAA tournament by winning their respective conference championship games.
App State and UNCG are the first two men's basketball teams from North Carolina to secure automatic bids to the NCAA tournament this year.
UNCG (21-8) was victorious in Asheville at the SoCon tournament, as Isaiah Miller led them to a 69-61 win over Mercer in the title game. Miller, a senior from Covington, Georgia, finished with 25 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in an impressive, all-around performance.
Tied with less than four minutes to play, Miller scored six points in an 8-0 run for the game's largest lead at 66-58 with 1:15 to play. The Mercer Bears stayed in the game because of UNCG’s lackluster free throw shooting. The Spartans made just 13-of-26 shots from the charity stripe.
Still, UNCG hung on for its second SoCon championship under head coach Wes Miller.
In Pensacola, Florida, Appalachian State earned its first NCAA tournament berth since 2000 by besting Georgia State 80-73 in the Sun Belt championship. It was an unlikely win for the Mountaineers (17-11) – which are led by second-year head coach Dustin Kerns – considering they lost six of their final seven regular season games and were seeded fourth in the Sun Belt tournament.
But Michael Almonacy scored a career-high 32 points and Adrian Delph chipped in 22 points to lead App State to an improbable victory.
App State senior point guard Justin Forrest made four free throws on consecutive possessions for a 71-60 lead with 1:51 left. Almonacy then made two free throws with 53.8 seconds remaining to snap Georgia State’s 7-0 run for a six-point lead, which iced the game.
Overall, it's the third trip to the NCAA tournament for App State and the fourth for UNCG. Neither team has ever won a game in the tournament.
The NCAA tournament selection show will air on Sunday, March 14. There, UNCG and App State will find out their opponents. The tournament begins with the First Four on March 18, and then first round games begin on March 19. All games are being held in Indianapolis, Indiana this year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.