Arkansas-Pine Bluff earns first trip to NCAA tourney

BOSSIER CITY, La. -- Arkansas-Pine Bluff is heading to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.

The Golden Lions earned their first NCAA berth beating Texas Southern 50-38 on Saturday in the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game.

"This means a lot for our school and our fans," UAPB coach George Ivory said. "We worked all year to get to the Big Dance and now we can always brag that at least for one year, we got to The Dance."

Tavaris Washington scored 14 points and Allen Smith had 11 as the Golden Lions won in front of a large contingent of their fans. Second-seeded UAPB (17-15) lost in the SWAC title game in 2006.

The fifth-seeded Tigers (17-16) were looking for their fifth NCAA trip, but first since 2003.

"Words can't express how I feel," Texas Southern coach Tony Harvey said. "This wasn't the performance I wanted out of our guys. It's kind of awkward, but I told the guys to cherish the moment. We were happy to be here. We will be back and we will win it."

UAPB took the lead with about five minutes remaining in the first half on back-to-back buckets from George Davis and never relinquished it. The Golden Lions went on an 11-2 run midway through the second half, keyed by six points from Washington, to go up 41-31.

"We put a lot of pride in our defense and rebounding," Ivory said. "We played a tough preseason schedule and it prepared us for playing physical in our league."

Junior Treasure and Deandre Hall each scored 14 for the Tigers, and Hall added 10 rebounds.

The Tigers opened the game with a 5-1 lead and appeared ready to take charge before most of the fans were in their seats. But a 3-pointer by Washington got the Lions going.

The lead changed seven times in the first half before UAPB took over. The Golden Lions won almost every offensive category, including outscoring the Tigers 17-0 in points off the bench.