Texas State falls short in Sun Belt run

Troy holds off Bob­cats, earns bid to NCAA tour­ney.

Austin American-Statesman - - NCAA TOURNAMENT -

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.

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