Texas State falls short in Sun Belt run
Troy holds off Bobcats, earns bid to NCAA tourney.
Jordon Varnado had 18 points and 12 rebounds and Troy defeated Texas State 59-53 in the championship game of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament on Sunday at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans.
The sixth-seeded Trojans (22-14) advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003 after winning their third game in three days and fourth in the tournament.
The fourth-seeded Bobcats (20-13) defeated topseeded UTA 83-62 in the semifinals.
Troy never trailed in the game after pulling even at 9-9, though the score was tied twice in the second half.
Varnado scored 10 straight points for the Trojans as they took control with a 57-50 lead with 14 seconds remaining.
Wesley Person, who was named the Most Outstanding Player in the tournament, scored 16 points and Jeremy Hollimon had 15 for Troy.
Kavin Gilder-Tilbury led Texas State with 19 points, scoring 16 in the second half.
Troy, which led the Sun Belt with 305 3-pointers, won despite making just 1 of 17 3-point attempts.
No. 12 SMU 71, No. 15 Cincinnati 56: Sterling Brown scored 18 points to help send No. 12 SMU into the NCAA Tournament with a win over No. 15 Cincinnati in the American Athletic Conference championship game Sunday in Hartford, Conn.
Tournament MVP Simi Ojeleye added 14 points, Jarrey Foster had 13 and Ben Moore scored 12 for Mustangs (30-4), who won their 16th straight game and second AAC title in three years.
The Mustangs took the championship in 2015, but missed last year’s postseason under NCAA sanctions.
Jarron Cumberland had 14 points to lead Cincinnati (29-5), which has not won a conference title since capturing the Conference USA crown in 2004.
SMU started the year 4-3, but has reeled off 26 wins in 27 games. They went 17-1 to win the league’s regular-season title, with the only loss coming by two points at Cincinnati in January.
The Mustangs never trailed in this one. They shot 50 percent from the field and made 10 of their 19 shots from 3-point range.
Brown scored six points to spark SMU on a game-opening 11-2 run. A 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer by Ben Emelogu from just inside the midcourt logo gave the Mustangs a 32-23 lead.
It was the lowest scoring first half of the season for the Bearcats.
Cincinnati made just one of its first 15 shots from the field, shot 34 percent for the game and missed 20 of 24 3-pointers.
SMU hit four of its first five 3-point attempts in the second half to extend a nine-point lead to 17 at 48-31.