Texas-San Antonio (18-13) vs. McNeese State (21-10)
Saturday, March 12th, 4:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Leonard E. Merrell Center (5,600) -- Katy, Texas. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: UT-San Antonio 11-3, McNeese St. 15-1. Away Record: UT-San Antonio 5-10, McNeese St. 4-9. Neutral Record: UT-San Antonio 2-0, McNeese St. 2-0. Conference Record: UT-San Antonio 9-7, McNeese St. 11-5. Series Record: Texas-San Antonio leads, 22-16.
GAME NOTES: The top-seeded McNeese State Cowboys have reached the 2011 Southland Conference Tournament title game, and they will attempt to avoid an upset at the hands of the seventh-seeded Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners this afternoon.
The winner of this clash will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Texas-San Antonio has won this tournament twice, most recently in 2004. The Roadrunners are riding a four-game win streak that has enabled them to improve to 18-13 overall this season. After defeating second-seeded Northwestern State by one point in the quarterfinal round, UT-San Antonio disposed of third- seeded Sam Houston State in the semifinals on Thursday by a 79-70 final.
Like Texas-San Antonio, McNeese State has two Southland Conference Tournament titles to its credit, but it has been nine years since the Cowboys last claimed the crown. The Cowboys have won their last three games and six of the last seven to move to 21-10 overall. After knocking off eighth-seeded Nicholls State in the quarterfinals by seven points, they earned an eight-point win over fourth-seeded Texas State in the semifinals on Thursday.
As if the Roadrunners weren't playing with enough confidence, expect them to draw even more from the fact that they won their only regular-season meeting with McNeese State in a 65-61 final last month.
In the quarterfinal round, Texas-San Antonio's Devin Gibson poured in 28 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to help his team edge Northwestern State. Then, in Thursday's nine-point triumph over Sam Houston State, Gibson tallied 26 points and ripped down 11 boards to go along with six assists, a stellar performance by the star guard. Melvin Johnson III registered 14 points, and Sei Paye tallied 12 points for the Roadrunners, who connected on an even 50 percent of their field goal attempts, including a 9-of-15 showing from three- point range. A 24-14 edge in points from the foul line also helped the cause, as did a 42-35 rebounding advantage. Overall this season, Gibson is scoring 17.0 ppg, and he has racked up impressive totals of 176 assists and 85 steals. Johnson III checks in with 14.8 ppg, and Jeromie Hill adds 13.2 ppg and 6.7 rpg. UT-San Antonio generates 70.7 ppg, marginally better than the 69.5 ppg the club surrenders.
There are four double-digit scorers on the roster for McNeese State, and leading the pack is Patrick Richard with his 16.0 ppg. Diego Kapelan adds 14.8 ppg to the mix, a mark that would be better if not for his lackluster 39.1 percent shooting from the floor. P.J. Alawoya and Stephan Martin pitch in with 10.3 ppg apiece for the Cowboys, who are averaging 74.5 ppg while allowing 70.9 ppg. Alawoya, a 61 percent shooter from the floor, comes away with 10.2 rpg as well. In the triumph over Texas State on Thursday, Alawoya led a balanced attack with 18 points. Kapelan added 17 points, while Richard and C.J. Collins had 16 points apiece. Collins also dished out eight assists for the Cowboys, who shot 50.9 percent from the field and earned a 31-15 advantage in points from the foul line.
Expect this game to be much higher scoring than the regular-season meeting between the two. McNeese State will do just enough to edge the pesky Roadrunners, earning the Cowboys a much-deserved bid to the "Big Dance."
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: McNeese State 87, Texas-San Antonio 83
03/12 10:34:58 ET