Tag Archives: Sun Belt Conference Tournament

Early Morning Outlook: Surprises aplenty in women’s Sun Belt bracket

The first round of the women’s Sun Belt Conference tournament didn’t finish without a couple of twists Saturday. A few notes from the first day of action in Hot Springs:

  • First things first, No. 3 Western will indeed meet No. 6 South Alabama in the quarterfinals at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The Jaguars (15-15, 9-9 SBC) held on to beat No. 11-seeded Louisiana Lafayette 82-76 in their first-round game.

The Lady Toppers (20-9, 14-4 SBC) split two games with South Alabama in the regular season. They lost 88-78 on Jan. 6 in Mobile, Ala., but pulled out a 67-61 win on Feb. 17 in Bowling Green.

South Alabama Head Coach Rick Pietri said in his postgame news conference Saturday that beating Western is a tall order, but the Jaguars aren’t going to shy away from the opportunity.

“Those guys are really good, exceptionally talented,” Pietri said. “Their starting five is as talented as anybody’s in the league. Two All-Conference players, two players who have been All-Conference before that aren’t now, and they get to relax and watch us play.

“Clearly the odds are stacked against us, but we’re going to be here. We’re going to show up, and we’re going to play the game, and we’re going to see what happens.”

  • In other first-round news, No. 8 Arkansas State downed No. 9 Troy, despite trailing by nine with 11 minutes left. The Red Wolves will meet top-seeded Arkansas-Little Rock at noon Sunday.
  • No. 4-seeded Denver also eliminated No. 13 Louisiana-Monroe with a 69-57 win. The Pioneers will meet the No. 12 seed, New Orleans, at 12:15 p.m. Sunday.
  • Yeah, you read that right. No. 12 New Orleans pulled a huge upset over No. 5 Florida Atlantic, 51-50.

UNO’s Nicole Holmes hit two free throws with 2.9 seconds left to send the Privateers, who won just four conference games in the regular season, to the quarterfinals.

“This was quite a win for us,” UNO Head Coach Amy Champion said in her postgame news conference. “When we arrived here, I don’t think anyone thought we could do it. Based on a number of circumstances that’s surrounded our program the last six or seven months, everything’s been such a doubt. Today we took another step forward in proving to people in this country that we are a competitive basketball team.”

  • UNO’s dramatic win wasn’t the only surprise of the night, as No. 10 seed North Texas upset No. 7 –seeded Florida International, 61-51. The Mean Green will next take on No. 2 Middle Tennessee at 2:15 p.m. Sunday.

Herald Sports Editor Jonathan Lintner will have full coverage of the Lady Toppers’ game against South Alabama, as well as the men’s quarterfinals matchup with Arkansas State at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

For more on the Lady Toppers’ preparation for the tournament, read the preview in Friday’s Herald.

-Zach Greenwell

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FINAL: WKU 64, USA 56

It’s over. Ken McDonald is legend, and WKU is going to the NCAAs. I’m writing it up now, so check WKUHerald.com later for a complete recap.

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Second half, 22.7 seconds to go: WKU 62, USA 56

The USA press isn’t doing much to tire the Toppers or force turnovers. WKU is holding the ball and running the clock. Pettigrew rebounds a missed three from OMV, and that might seal it. He gets it to Slaughter, who gets fouled and will go to the line.

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Second half, 1:26 to go: WKU 62, USA 56

Magley hits both FTs and Kerusch gets a rebound off missed three by USA, but it doesn’t matter because he stepped out. USA takes advantage in the form of a Ross three on the left wing. USA continues to trap, but it doesn’t work. WKU gets it up the court, and an OMV three matches USA’s. Coleman gets the foul and-one, with the foul on Pettigrew, his third. Coleman makes the freebie to make it 55-51 WKU. Kerusch hits a brillant deep jumper from the right wing over his defender to extend the lead. Pettigrew takes a great defensive position to force a turnover, and WKU is slowing it down for clock reasons.

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Second half, 3:57 to go: WKU 55, USA 50

DeAndrae Ross hits a deep two to bring USA closer, and they start trapping in the backcourt again, something WKU has had trouble with this half. WKU was able to get it up the court, and it led to a big dunk by Kerusch, which was followed by a Coleman layup for USA. Magley makes a great fake under the basket and gets the foul.

D.J. Magley is playing his best ball of the tournament. He’s got six points and six rebounds, four of those offensive. He’s been making the little plays and the unexpected (i.e. the foul line jumper) that this team needs him to make to succeed.

-22,593 was the total announced attendance for the tournament, which is the biggest turnout since ’03. It’s good, but to become a bigger and better conference, fans have to travel more. It’s March Madness, people. You have to love it.

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Foul trouble

Just a note: Evans and Slaughter are both in foul trouble. Slaughter has three and Evans has four. This will have an effect on how aggressive they can be late in the game — definitely something to watch.

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Second half, 7:03 to go: WKU 51, USA 46

Slaughter hits a three out of the timeout, giving WKU back the lead at 44-43. That score saved a dumb drive by Sally through a double team, in which he almost turned it over but manged to get it to Slaughter. An Evans rebound off a USA miss gave the Toppers an opportunity to get a little breathing room, but Slaughter missed a jumper. Kerusch hits a jumper at the foul line for a 46-43 lead following two missed FTs by USA’s Douglas. Sally hits a three to stretch it out to 51-46, Western’s biggest lead since the half.

Free throws could be big down the stretch. USA shoots 66 percent on the season from the line, WKU 69 percent. In the last two minutes, both teams have shot FTs: WKU was 2-2 (OMV), while USA went 1-3 (Coleman, Douglas).

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