South Alabama got the look it wanted and the player the Jaguars wanted shooting the potential game-tying 3-pointer in the final seconds of Monday night's Sun Belt Conference Championship game against Louisiana.
However, Owen White's 25-footer from the right wing spun out. Louisiana grabbed the rebound, hit two free throws at the other end and celebrated a 71-66 victory that earned the Sun Belt Conference's automatic ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
The heartbreaker ended an impressive run through the conference tournament. It also put an unwanted end to an outstanding tournament for White, who had 12 3-pointers in the first three games. On Monday, though, the 6-foot-6 graduate student misfired on all three of his 3-pointers and was 3 of 7 overall.
The Jaguars, who were trying to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008, were swept by Louisiana in the two regular-season meetings. In this game, though, South Alabama had the lead for nearly 25 minutes behind the play of Isaiah Moore. The 6-foot-1 graduate student was sensational, contributing 33 points, three assists and a steal. He was 10 of 20 from the floor, 1 of 2 on 3-pointers and 12 of 15 on free throws.
South Alabama's Kevin Samuel, the SBC Defensive Player of the Year, also kept All-SBC forward Jordan Brown from having a huge night. Brown was effective, scoring 13 points and grabbing 16 rebounds, but he was just 6 of 16 from the field and committed three turnovers. Samuel had 12 points, six rebounds, two blocked shots, a steal and an assist.
Louisiana took the lead with 12:36 left in the game and never gave it back. The Ragin Cajuns led, 65-59, with 2:43 left, but South Alabama didn't fold. The Jaguars cut the lead to two, and Tyrell Jones went to the free throw line at the 53-second mark with a chance to tie the game. Jones, an 83 percent free throw shooter, made the first one and missed the second. Jalen Dalcourt hit a short jumper for Louisiana, and the teams then traded a pair of free throws, setting up the final shot for South Alabama.
Furman 88, Chattanooga 79: The Paladins won the Southern Conference Tournament behind 20 points by Jalen Slawson. Spain Park graduate Jamal Johnson had 17 points and four 3-pointers for Chattanooga, and 7-foot center Jackson Stephens led the Mocs with 25 points and eight rebounds.
It was also a win for Samford, which shared the SoCon regular season title with Furman. If Furman had lost on Monday, the Paladins would have received the automatic berth to the NIT. With the win, Furman advances to the NCAA Tournament, with Samford getting the automatic bid to the NIT.
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