Sun Belt title on the line, as Mean Green take on Indians
Lafayette, LA (Sports Network) – The fifth-seeded North Texas Mean Green
and the second-seeded Arkansas State Indians meet in the championship
game of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament tonight, with the winner
earning the right to represent the league in the NCAA Tournament.
This is the Mean Green’s first championship game in its seventh all-time
appearance in the SBC Tournament. UNT, which had gone just 1-6 in its
previous six appearances, ripped off three straight wins to each tonight’s
title game. The team opened tournament play with 93-78 victory over 12th-
seeded and host UL-Lafayatte before upsetting fourth-seeded UL-Monroe (77-71)
in overtime in the quarterfinals. Last night, the Mean Green earned a hard
fought 59-52 win over ninth-seeded Middle Tennessee advance to its first
conference tournament championship since 1995-96, when it was a Southland
Conference member. The victory also helped UNT tie a school record for wins
in a season with 22.
As for ASU, it earned a first round bye for this tournament so it needed just
two wins to reach the finals. The team began its run with an 81-74 win over
seventh-seeded New Orleans before holding off third-seeded Western
Kentucky, 80-73, in the semifinals on Monday. The Indians have now ripped
off six straight wins en route to their first title game appearance since
1999. That year, ASU defeated Western Kentucky in the finals for its lone
title in this event.
The Indians won both meetings against UNT during the regular season to take a
14-12 lead in the all-time series between the two schools.
UNT held Middle Tennessee to a dismal 35.1 percent shooting effort from the
field, as it earned a seven-point win in the semifinals on Monday. The Mean
Green, itself, hit on 41.7 percent from the field and also owned a 17-9
advantage in free-throw points. Ben Bell led the way with 15 points, while
Calvin Watson and Michael Sturns each chipped in with 11 points. On the
season, Watson leads the team in scoring with 15.5 ppg and he is also pulling
down 4.1 rpg. Kendrick Davis is next in line with 13.8 ppg, but he has been
suffering from a stomach virus and he will most likely miss his second game in
a row. Sturns chipped in with 12.6 ppg for the Mean Green, which is averaging
a hardy 77.4 ppg and 40.2 rpg on the season.
ASU knocked down 51.1 percent of its shots from the field and 26-of-28 free-
throw attempts, as it outlasted WKU in the semifinals on Monday. Adrian Banks
headed the charge with 29 points and five rebounds. Ryan Wedel scored 16
points in the win, while Isaac Wells notched a double-double with 11 points
and 10 rebounds. On the season, Banks ranks among the top scorers in the
league with a healthy 21.3 ppg on the strength of 48.0 percent shooting from
behind the arc. Wells, who poured in 29 points in the team’s quarterfinal win,
has provided a nice complement to Banks, as he turns in 15.7 ppg and a team-
high 8.3 rpg. Wedel rounds out the double-figure scorers with 10.7 ppg. As a
whole, the Indians are putting forth a solid 72.4 ppg on 45.7 percent shooting
from the field and 39.9 percent from long distance.