By John Agovino, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Special Events Center (7,000) -- Garland, Texas. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Grambling State 4-6, Alabama State 10-3. Away Record: Grambling State 5-13, Alabama State 4-14. Neutral Record: Grambling State 3-1, Alabama State 2-0. Conference Record: Grambling State 8-10, Alabama State 11-7.
GAME NOTES: An unlikely pair will clash this evening for the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament title, as the sixth-seeded Grambling State Tigers will try to continue their tremendous run when they take on the fourth- seeded Alabama State Hornets at the Special Events Center in Garland, Texas.
Grambling State lost 20 games during the regular season, but that has not stopped the suddenly-hot Tigers from making their way through the first two rounds of this event. The Tigers narrowly defeated Mississippi Valley State, 65-62 in the quarterfinals and followed that with a thrilling, 81-75 overtime decision against Jackson State. Now Grambling, which finished 8-10 in league play this year, is in the title game for the first time since 1987 and is just one victory away from claiming its first-ever SWAC Tournament crown.
Alabama State is back in the title game for the first time since winning the event in 2009. The Hornets have enjoyed considerably more success in this tournament when compared to Grambling, as they have won the championship three times. The Hornets, who finished the regular season with an 11-7 conference record, opened this year's installment of the SWAC Tournament with an 81-61 victory over Alabama A&M. That was followed with a 73-66 decision over top- seeded Texas Southern.
The Tigers finished eighth in the SWAC during the regular season with just 60.9 ppg at the offensive end of the floor. However, Grambling State showed it is capable of finding its stroke at any time, and exploded for 81 points in an overtime victory over Jackson State in the semifinals. Sure, the team's 40.7 percent shooting effort was nothing special, but the team did its job at the foul line, connecting on 29-of-41 attempts from the charity stripe. Donald Qualls, who is posting 11.6 ppg on the season, erupted for 35 points in the victory. The guard drained 7-of-13 three-point attempts and finished 14-of-15 from the foul line. What was even more impressive about the win was the fact that the team's leading scorer on the season, Justin Patton (13.3 ppg), shot just 2-of-10 from the floor and finished with only seven points. Fortunately Lance Feurtado picked up the slack and posted 18 points in the win.
The Hornets took full advantage of Texas Southern's poor first-half shooting, as they went into the break with a 30-17 edge after TSU shot just 4-of-19 from the floor. From there on, the Hornets were in control and behind a 21-of-33 showing from the foul line in the second stanza, they were on to claim the win. Alabama State, which shot 46.3 percent from the floor, saw five different players finish in double-figures, beginning with Ivory White's 17-point and eight rebound effort. Tremayne Moorer, who is the team's leading scorer with 15.4 ppg, added 14 points, while Kenderek Washington posted 13 points and seven boards. Jeff Middlebrooks and Tramaine Butler (10.9 ppg) chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively, in the win.
Alabama State may be the fourth seed, but the Hornets have won 10 of their last 11 games, and are clearly on a roll. Look for the Hornets to sting one more conference opponent before raising the SWAC title for the fourth time in school history.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Alabama State 74, Grambling State 66
03/12 10:34:32 ET
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