NATCHITOCHES, La. (AP) -- By halftime, Southeastern Louisiana
coach Billy Kennedy knew his team had a great chance of making its
first NCAA tournament.
Ricky Woods scored 16 points and the Lions used a suffocating
defense to win the Southland Conference championship game Sunday,
49-42 over Northwestern State.
"Every kid dreams about the chance to play in the NCAA
tournament," said center Nate Lofton, who had 10 rebounds and nine
points. "Our goal since last year was to win the conference
championship, the tournament championship and go to the NCAA's."
Southeastern Louisiana (24-8), the tournament's No. 2 seed,
ended a 10-game winning streak for top-seeded Northwestern State
(21-12) by holding the Demons to their lowest point total of the
The Lions' 24 wins are the most in school history.
Now the team will face Big 12 Conference tournament champion
Oklahoma State at the Oklahoma City regional.
Northwestern State shot just 29.8 percent (14-of-47), including
25 percent in the second half (6-of-24).
Though the game was tied at 24 at halftime, Billy Kennedy "felt
great about the game."
"We had the tempo we needed and the guys were playing hard,"
he said. "There weren't a lot of possessions, so you have to give
credit to the guys for how they played in the biggest game of the
Woods scored on a short jumper with 6:06 to play to put SLU
ahead 41-32. Northwestern scored the next eight points and got
within 41-40 on a putback by Clifton Lee with 3:20 to play. A
putback by Woods increased Southeastern's lead to 47-42 with 35
seconds to play.
Northwestern lost its last chance for a comeback when Keenan
Jones missed two free throws with 27 seconds to play. Terry Bryant
added two free throws for the Lions to give them their final
Jonathan Patton added 13 points for the Lions.
"I felt like our experience and grit would come through for
us," Kennedy said. "We've played at some pretty tough places this
year and I thought if we settled down and took good shots, we would
weather the storm."
Jermaine Wallace led Northwestern State with 12 points.
"We had some solid looks throughout the game, but the shots
just didn't stay down," said Northwestern coach Mike McConathy,
whose team was in its third Southland Conference tournament
championship game in six years. "They controlled the tempo and the
end result was that they won the game."