North Texas 83

(23-10, 10-8 Sun Belt)

Arkansas State 75

(18-15, 11-7 Sun Belt)

    9:00 PM ET, March 6, 2007

    Cajundome, Lafayette, Louisiana

    1 2 T
    UNT 37 4683
    ARST 36 3975

    Top Performers

    North Texas: C. Watson 24 Pts, 4 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl

    Arkansas St: S. Morgan 14 Pts, 6 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Stl

    North Texas earns first NCAA bid since '88

    Associated Press

    LAFAYETTE, La. -- Shootaround was over Tuesday morning and the bus was waiting, but Calvin Watson wasn't ready to leave the court.

    North Texas coach Johnny Jones wasn't about to make him, and even encouraged him to test his range.

    "I was just playing with him to make him relax a little bit and said, 'back up, you can shoot it a little deeper than that,' and he was already behind the 3-point line," Jones said. "I love to see hard work pay off for people and I think that's what happened."

    Watson hit six 3-pointers and scored 24 points to help North Texas get to its first NCAA tournament since 1988 with an 83-75 victory over Arkansas State in the Sun Belt Conference tournament championship on Tuesday night.

    Watson, the Mean Green's season and career leader in 3-pointers, had lost his range lately, going 4-for-23 on 3-point attempts in his previous four games.

    He rediscovered it at the right time, hitting his first five against the Indians and finishing 6-of-7.

    "I put in the work, so I knew my shot would eventually go down," Watson said. "My teammates ... I looked them in the eyes and I told them I was going to be ready for this game. I looked coach in his eyes and I said, 'Coach, I'm ready.' So he called some quick plays for me and I was able to knock down some shots.

    "You get in a nice rhythm as a shooter and you never know what might happen," Watson said. "You might go 6-for-7."

    It made the difference for North Texas (23-10), which held only slim leads most of the second half and missed 13 free throws.

    "Everything they threw up went in. Give them credit for that," Arkansas State coach Dickey Nutt said. "They were more aggressive than we were."

    Isaac Wells led Arkansas State (18-15) with 21 points. However, North Texas was able to disrupt Adrian Banks, who had 29 points in the semifinals a night earlier but finished with 12 against the Mean Green.

    "They did play defense, I'll give them credit on that, but we didn't execute our offense as well as we should have," Banks said.

    Rich Young scored 15 points for North Texas, including a soaring one-handed jam and an alley-oop dunk in the last six minutes.

    He was one of the few reliable free throw shooters for the Mean Green, going 7-of-8 from the line, 4-for-4 in the final minute.

    Quincy Williams scored 12 for the Mean Green, while Ben Bell and Keith Wooden each scored 11.

    Shawn Morgan scored 14 for ASU and Ryan Wedel 11.

    Arkansas State was as close as 72-70 after Wells' 3-pointer with 3:05 left.

    Young's dunk followed, then Harold Stewart scored his only basket of the game on a tip-in in a crowd and hit a free throw on the Mean Green's next possession to make it 77-70.

    Wells scored again inside to make it 77-72, but that was as close as the Indians got as North Texas scored the next six points, all on foul shots, while ASU missed four straight field goal attempts, three of them from 3-point range.

    North Texas started fast. Wooden scored seven quick points and the Mean Green connected on its first seven shots in taking an early 16-8 lead.

    The lead was short-lived, however, as Jim Jones' 3-pointer ignited a 17-6 run that included Banks' baseline fadeaway and Wedel's 3-pointer, giving ASU a 25-22 lead.

    From there, it was a tight first half with nine lead changes, the last when Young hit a pair of free throws to give North Texas a 37-36 lead at halftime.

    The Mean Green rarely trailed in the second half and never seemed rattled, even though they were well aware Arkansas State had beaten them twice during the regular season and that they were trying to secure the first tournament berth for North Texas in nearly two decades.

    It had also been a long time since Johnny Jones had cut down a net in celebration of a tournament crown, not since the early '80s when he was a player and then an assistant coach under Dale Brown at LSU. "I'm excited our kids are going to be able to see something that's very special, something nobody will ever be able to take away from them," Jones said. "They'll be able to bring their kids back years from now and be able to see that flag in the arena and talk about that championship they were a part of."

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 83 75
    FG Made-Attempted 29-55 (.527) 28-62 (.452)
    3P Made-Attempted 8-13 (.615) 7-22 (.318)
    FT Made-Attempted 17-30 (.567) 12-16 (.750)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 19 (0/0) 24 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 11 3

    2006-07 Season

    Jan 6, 2007 @ARST 84, UNT 60Recap
    Feb 22, 2007 ARST 74, @UNT 71Recap
    » Mar 6, 2007 UNT 83, @ARST 75Recap