BOISE – Between the opening tip and the final buzzer, there were enough “what if” moments to keep Wes Miller’s mind churning through an entire offseason.
In a 68-64 loss to Gonzaga, Miller’s UNC Greensboro team shot well below its normal 3-point shooting clip. The Spartans made 3-of-22, or 13.6 percent, of their long bombs. They’re normally around the 35-36 percent range.
What if a few more treys drop?
When UNCG took a 64-62 lead with 1:49 to play, and a missed Silas Melson free throw gave the Spartans the ball back with a chance to go up two possessions, junior guard Demetrius Troy ambitiously threw an alley oop to a cutting James Dicky. The ball sailed clear into the stands and GU’s Josh Perkins hit a pull-up 2-pointer on the other end to tie the game. Zach Norvell iced it with a 3-pointer moments later.
What if Troy avoids the misstep?
“I don’t think any of our calls were bad calls, but you think ‘what if?’” Miller said. “I think that’s what you do in this situation as a player and coach.”
Added Miller: “People say, man, you were pretty gutsy when you threw the lob, we were up two, but they were starting to really extend on pin-downs. I love Demetrius and James, they’ve connected on a lot of lobs this year. And we weren’t going to be afraid tonight, we were going to come out swinging.”
Swing they did.
The Spartans, who Miller equated to a group of “junkyard dogs” during Wednesday’s media session, employed a ferocious pressure defense, outworked Gonzaga on the glass by a 41-37 margin and got dirty sprawling loose balls.
“We stayed true to our values on the defensive aspect of the game,” guard Francis Alonso said. “… And we kept competing. We kept competing as a team and we didn’t give up. So we’ve got to be proud of that.”’
Those “what if” moments could haunt them for the time being – “We got 22 looks, and I venture to think that 18 of them were pretty good looks for us,” Miller said – but the Spartans return three of five starters next season and have designs on returning to the Big Dance.
Maybe they can rectify a few of those mistakes.
“I’m excited about the young guys in our program and the returning guys,” Miller said. “These two guards sitting up here today (Alonso and Troy), they’re pretty darned good players, they’ll be seniors next year. Hopefully we can continue to try to grow one at a time.”
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