Arkansas-Little Rock wins Sun Belt crown

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NEW ORLEANS >> Roger Woods scored 19 points and Arkansas-Little Rock punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament with a dominant second half, beating Louisiana-Monroe 70-50 on Sunday in the Sun Belt Tournament final.

Trailing 33-28 at halftime, the Trojans raised their defensive intensity several notches and went on an 18-4 run to take control. Woods gave Arkansas-Little Rock the lead for good at 37-35, faking an outside shot and driving for an emphatic dunk with 15:01 left.

Marcus Johnson Jr. hit an open 3-pointer as the Trojans took their first double-digit lead, 53-42, at the 8:06 mark.

Woods, the tournament MVP, hit eight of 10 shots and added nine rebounds. Johnson scored 14 points for top-seeded Arkansas-Little Rock (29-4), which tied a Sun Belt conference record for wins in a season.

Justin Roberson had 17 points for second-seeded Louisiana-Monroe (20-13), which entered the final on a 10-game winning streak and having won 14 of its last 15 after a 6-11 start.

Getting little room to operate, the flustered Warhawks never recovered after committing four quick turnovers and missing their first six shots of the second half. They hit 6 of 25 after going 14 of 24 in the first half.

The closest they came in the last 8 minutes was nine points, and they could not capitalize on Arkansas-Little Rock's rare mistakes.

When Josh Hagins' pass on the perimeter was intercepted, Louisiana-Monroe gave the ball right back when an outlet pass was tipped off a player's leg and out of bounds.

The Trojans began celebrating after Kemy Osse's 3-pointer from the corner made it 64-50. They entered the tournament with an outside shot at at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament thanks to road victories over San Diego State and Tulsa, but they erased any doubt about their destination.

ALL-TOURNAMENT

Johnson Jr., Roberson and Majok Deng of Louisiana-Monroe joined Woods on the all-tournament team along with Louisiana-Lafayette's Shawn Long, the Sun Belt regular season player of the year.

TIP-INS

Arkansas-Little Rock: Hagins, the Trojans' leading scorer for the year, had five points and went 2 for 7 from the field. ... Arkansas-Little Rock is returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 and the second time since 1990.

Louisiana-Monroe: The Warhawks had five chances to finish three-point plays in the first half but missed the free throw on the first four before Roberson finally made one. . Roberson and guard Nick Coppola played all 40 minutes, and coach Keith Richard used only seven players, but he said fatigue was not a factor in the Warhawks' second game in less than 24 hours.

UP NEXT

Arkansas-Little Rock: The Trojans will play in the NCAA T.

Louisiana-Monroe: The Warhawks will be in a postseason tournament, probably the CIT or CBI.


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