Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cajuns Ragin' after Beating Hilltoppers for NCAA Berth

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cajuns Ragin' after Beating Hilltoppers for NCAA Berth

Article excerpt

Southwestern Louisiana waited until the third game to finally beat Western Kentucky. And now it's the Hilltoppers who have to wait.

The Ragin' Cajuns earned their sixth trip to the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday, defeating Western Kentucky 78-72 in the Sun Belt Conference championship game.

"We knew it would not be easy," said Southwestern Louisiana coach Marty Fletcher, whose club lost 91-87 and 78-62 to the Hilltoppers during the regular season. "We were able to come up with some fortunate plays this time. When you're playing a team as good as Western, you have to make big plays."

Western Kentucky, which had outrebounded the Ragin' Cajuns by a wide margin in its two victories, held only a 34-32 edge Tuesday night.

"Coach told me to be a lot more physical than I had been," said Southwestern Louisiana center Bryan Collins, who had nine rebounds. "So I did that tonight. Without the rebounds, I don't think we could have won."

Western Kentucky now must wait until Sunday for the NCAA selection committee to decide if its 20-10 record is worth an invitation to the 64-team tournament.

"We did what the selection committee said you had to do," coach Ralph Willard said. "We played at Indiana, North Carolina, Louisville and Alabama-Birmingham. We had opportunities to win all those games. Then we won 13 of our last 16 and eight in a row. I think that qualifies us."

Wisconsin-Green Bay qualified for the NCAA Tournament with a 61-56 victory over Illinois-Chicago in the Mid-Continent Conference finals.

No Top 25 teams played Tuesday night.

Southwestern Louisiana (22-7) also handled Western Kentucky's pressure defense for the most part, turning over the ball only 12 times.

"We didn't do a good job in either area tonight," Willard said of his team's board play and defense. "We decided to go after them and press the whole game. That was probably the wrong decision. They handled it well."

And Southwestern Louisiana's Byron Starks, besides leading his team with 23 points, played an important role in holding Western Kentucky's Chris Robinson to only five points on two-for-8 shooting. …

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