Scores

Final

Northwestern St 78

(17-15, 10-6 Southland)

Texas A&M-CC 81

(26-6, 14-2 Southland)

2:00 PM ET, March 11, 2007

1 2 T
NWST 36 4278
AMCC 44 3781

Top Performers

Northwestern St: T. Gilder 25 Pts, 8 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

Texas A&M-CC: C. Daniels 19 Pts, 2 Reb, 2 Blk

A&M-Corpus Christi tops Northwestern State for berth 

Associated Press

HOUSTON -- With dancing, high-fives and hugs, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi engaged in quite a celebration after earning its first NCAA tournament berth Sunday.

But coach Ronnie Arrow and the Islanders also spent ample time giving thanks after their 81-78 win Sunday over Northwestern State for the Southland Conference tournament championship.

Despite winning more than 20 games in each of the last two seasons, the Islanders knew they didn't have a legitimate chance at the tournament because they were independent.

The invitation to join the Southland Conference changed all that.

"The bottom line is we're going dancing and I'm happy for our seniors," Arrow said. "People do not understand where we have been the last nine years. If we weren't in this conference right now we'd be going home. We're very appreciative of the Southland Conference inviting us in."

Chris Daniels, the conference player of the year, scored 19 points to lead Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

"This is a great feeling," Daniels said. "I think we deserve it."

The Islanders were ahead 79-75 with 5 seconds remaining after Taureen Mitchell made a free throw, then got a steal and found Kevin Menifee for the layup.

As Texas A&M-Corpus Christi players jumped around and celebrated, Luke Rogers pulled up from far beyond arc and sank a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left to make it 79-78.

The Demons were forced to foul and Josh Ervin made both free throws to secure the Islanders' win. Northwestern had one last try to go to the NCAAs for a second straight year, but Mitchell intercepted a pass to end the game.

Corpus Christi never trailed, but twice saw a 13-point second-half lead dwindle to one point.

After the game, players donned Southland Conference tournament champion T-shirts and fans jumped around wildly and chanted "Let's Go Dancing! Let's Go Dancing!" Some players embraced each other and the students, while others broke into impromptu dances.

Corpus Christi was seeded 15th in the Midwest Region, where it will face second-seeded Wisconsin on Friday.

The Islanders, who have won six straight, began playing basketball in 1999.

"This game where we are right now is a culmination of all the players for nine years that have come and helped us build this program," Arrow said. "All these guys that never really had a chance to go the NCAA tournament. We kept telling them if you win enough games, you might. But the bottom line is if you're independent ... it's not going to happen."

Mitchell hit a jumper with about 40 seconds left to put the Islanders ahead 76-73, but Northwestern State answered with a putback by Jermaine Spencer to cut the lead to one with 25 seconds left.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi led 73-66 after a bucket by Daniels, but a jumper by Spencer followed by a steal and dunk by Trey Gilder made it 73-70 with 4 minutes left.

Ervin made one of two free throws to stretch Corpus Christi's lead to 74-70.

Keenan Jones hit a 3 with about 2:40 left that got Northwestern State within 74-73 and sent Demons fans into a frenzy.

Daniels was 7-for-8 despite being double- and sometimes triple-teamed. The attention the 7-footer garnered often left his teammates open for long shots. Josh Washington took advantage to sink four 3s.

Washington finished with 16 points for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (26-6) and Ervin added 14.

Gilder led the Demons (17-15) with 25 points and Spencer had 13. "I'm extremely proud of our kids because there was many times in this game when some people at home may have packed it in," Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy said. "But the nature of our team is to compete until the bitter end, and that's what we did today."

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi led by eight at halftime and was ahead 61-48 with about 12 minutes remaining after a layup by Daniels. Then two quick fouls sent Daniels to the bench and the Demons took advantage of his absence to outscore the Islanders 14-6 over the next 5 minutes to get to 67-62.

Corpus Christi led by 13 points late in the first half before a quick 3 by Gilder followed by a steal and layup by Jones cut the lead to 44-36 at halftime.

Having made the journey from an unknown independent that once shared an arena with a hockey team to a coveted spot in the NCAA tournament, the Islanders aren't concerned about their next opponent.

"I don't care where they send us," Arrow said. "I don't care who we play, where we play. We're going to be there and we're going to be ready."

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
NWST
AMCC
Points 78 81
FG Made-Attempted 27-69 (.391) 27-46 (.587)
3P Made-Attempted 6-16 (.375) 6-13 (.462)
FT Made-Attempted 18-22 (.818) 21-28 (.750)
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 25 (0/0) 23 (0/0)
Largest Lead 0 15

2006-07 Season

DATEGAMELINKS
Jan 11, 2007 AMCC 69, @NWST 57Recap
» Mar 11, 2007 @AMCC 81, NWST 78Recap