Houston, TX (Sports Network) - Chris Daniels scored 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting as Texas A&M-Corpus Christi held off a furious Northwestern State rally, 81-78, to win the Southland Conference Tournament at the Campbell Center.
Josh Washington added 16 points for the Islanders (26-6), who have won six straight games and earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with the win. Josh Ervin chipped in with 14 points, while Scooby Johnson finished with 11 points and was a perfect 5-of-5 from the floor.
The Islanders were given a No. 15 seed in the Midwest region of the NCAA Tournament and a matchup against Wisconsin in Chicago on Friday.
Trey Gilder poured in a game-high 25 points for the Demons (17-15), who won the Southland tourney last year. Jermaine Spencer finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Kennan Jones had 12 points and five assists.
The Islanders entered the final frame with an eight-point advantage and slowly started pulling away. Cedric Smith got loose for a dunk with 9:03 left to give Texas A&M-Corpus Christi a 69-53 edge.
The Demons refused to give in, however, and got back in the game with an impressive 17-4 run. Gilder got loose on the right baseline for a slam to finish the flurry and make it a one-possession game, 73-70, with four minutes to go.
Ervin stemmed the momentum, momentarily, by hitting 1-of-2 from the line but Jones buried a three to make it a one-point affair, 74-73, with just 2:50 on the clock.
After the two teams exchanged offensive fouls, the Demons got the ball to Luke Rogers on the blocks but he was too anxious and was whistled for traveling with just over a minute to go.
Taurean Mitchell took advantage by sinking a jumper from the foul line with 38 ticks left to make it a 76-73 game.
Thirteen seconds later, Spencer's putback made it a one-point game again and the Demons were forced to foul Mitchell. who managed to sink 1-of-2 from the line with 17 seconds remaining.
The Islanders then looked like they sealed things when Mitchell picked Jones' pocket and hit Kevin Menifee for a driving layup with less than five seconds left.
But, Gilder quickly found Rogers who drilled a 30-foot three to make it a 79-78 game with 2.4 ticks showing.
The Demons quickly fouled Ervin who calmly hit both free throws to seal things for the Islanders.
The Islanders stormed out of the gates with a 10-2 run to start the game. Washington drilled a three to finish the burst just four minutes into the game.
Northwestern State survived the opening salvo and slowly climbed back in it. Spencer's tip-in drew the Demons to within three, 18-15, with a little over 10 minutes left in the opening frame.
The Islanders recovered from there and regained some breathing room, 44-36, by intermission.
Last year Northwestern State defeated Sam Houston State in the championship game and represented the SLC well in the postseason by upsetting Iowa in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on a last-second three-point basket, 64-63. While the Demons lost to West Virginia a couple of days later, it marked the first time since 1985 that a program from the Southland had made it to the second round of the tournament...Texas A&M-Corpus Christi leads the all-time series, 2-0.
03/11 20:13:36 ET