|JCSU playoff chances take hit with loss in CIAA tourney semifinal|
|Golden Bulls score season-low 48 vs. Fayetteville St.|
|Published Friday, February 28, 2020 11:00 pm|
|PHOTO | CURTIS WILSON|
|Johnson C. Smith's Golden Bulls wait out the final moments of their 54-48 loss to Fayetteville State in the CIAA semifinals Friday at Spectrum Center. JCSU, ranked eighth in the Division II Atlantic Region, are on the bubble to make the NCAA tournament.|
Johnson C. Smith will need a lot of help to make the NCAA Division tournament field.
The Golden Bulls’ 54-48 loss to Fayetteville State at the CIAA semifinals Friday was a crippling blow to their playoff chances despite a 20-8 record and No. 8 ranking in the Atlantic Region, which includes the CIAA, Pennsylvania State Athletic and West Virginia Athletic conferences. Indiana (Pa.) and West Liberty are first and second with records of 22-2 and 22-3 respectively and the highest-ranked CIAA team, No. 6 Virginia State, lost in the tournament quarterfinals. Fayetteville State is ninth in the region.
“It’s something that we hope for, but experience tells me realistically we’re too deep in the region on the other end at No. 8 [to make the field],” JCSU coach Steve Joyner said. “If we were in the top five, fine, but there has to be some movement in the other two conferences for them to adjust and move us up. Realistically, I don’t think we’re going to make it, but we do have hope.”
The Golden Bulls couldn’t find any rhythm against Fayetteville State until late in the second half when they trailed by as many as 15 points. JCSU’s top scorers, Cayse Minor and Nenad Milenkovic, combined for 24 points on a combined 7-of-22 shooting and 3-of-13 beyond the arc. Minor, an all-conference guard took one shot in the first half and Milenkovic didn’t score in the second half.
“They were denying the ball a little bit,” Minor said. “Going into the game, I kind of knew that so I tried to let the game come to me a little bit, try to move the ball and not force my offense, but I messed around and picked up two fouls and had to sit a little bit in the first half.”
Minor picked up the pace after intermission and a pair of free throws cut FSU’s advantage to 52-46 with 3:09 left, but mistakes derailed any chances JCSU had to advance.
“We had gotten back in the game on several occasions and we were our own worst enemy,” Joyner said. “We created turnovers, we rushed ourselves, we took some bad shots and those things led to run-outs for Fayetteville State. Those are things you grow from, and unfortunately these [seniors] won’t be with us next year, but hopefully our next year team will learn from that.”
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