Third-Seeded Wingate Upends Top-Seeded Trojans for SAC Championship

Box Score

HICKORY, N.C. – Top-seeded and 16th-ranked Anderson men’s basketball rallied late, but fell just shy as No. 3 seeded Wingate held off the late charge to upset the Trojans, 66-59, to claim the 2012 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Tournament Championship Sunday afternoon at the Tarlton Complex on the campus of Catawba Valley Community College. 

Anderson (24-5) equaled the school record for most wins in a season with Saturday afternoon’s thrilling double overtime semifinal win, but saw their nine-game win streak halted. Wingate improved to 20-11 and claimed the league’s automatic berth in next week’s NCAA Southeast Regional to be played March 10-13th.

Anderson, ranked second in the Southeast Region, will wait until later Sunday night to learn its fate for the remainder of the postseason.
 
Just as they did in Saturday’s semifinals, the Trojans struggled early on the offensive end, enabling Wingate to jump out to a quick 10-0 lead by connecting on its first four shots, forcing Trojan head coach Jason Taylor to call a 30-second timeout at the 17:17 mark.

The Bulldogs edged out to an 11-0 advantage, as Anderson misfired on its first seven attempts from the field before getting on the scoreboard when senior Taylor Shugart dropped in a putback with 14:59 on the clock.

But Wingate countered with five straight to gain a 16-2 lead, before Trojan sophomore Chandler Hash caught fire, draining three consecutive 3-pointers to cut the Bulldog lead to 16-11 at the 11:57 mark. 
 
Wingate’s lead hovered between four and six points for the next eight minutes of action, when Nick Trull nailed a jumper and Tyrell McDowell connected on his first trey of the afternoon for five unanswered points for the Trojans, as they climbed back within 22-21 with less than four minutes left in the first half.  

Trailing, 25-21, Anderson’s Denzail Jones dropped in a driving layup with less than 30 seconds remaining to pull the Trojans within a deuce, but Wingate’s Paidrick Matilus answered on the other end with a close jumper to set Wingate’s halftime lead at 27-23.  

The layup from Jones, who poured in a tournament-record 50 points in Saturday’s win past Newberry, was the junior guard’s first score of the afternoon.

Wingate pushed out to a 46-36 lead with less than nine minutes left in the contest before
Anderson reeled off nine unanswered points to rally within 46-45 with less than six minutes left in the game.

Jones triggered the run with a pair of free throws and after senior Tyrell McDowell blocked Quan Alexander’s shot on the other end, fellow senior Stephen Cobb connected on a 3-pointer from deep in the left corner, trimming the Bulldog lead to just five. Following a pair of empty possessions by each team, Jo’el Lamb knocked down two free throws and after the Trojan defense forced another Wingate turnover, Jones’ two free throws at 5:51 complete the outburst.

But AU was unable to wrestle the lead away from the Bulldogs, who led throughout the contest. The Trojans cut the deficit to three on three occasions inside the final two minutes, but were unable to get any closer, as Wingate was a perfect six-of-six from the line in the final two minutes.

Jones finished with a team-high 19 points, while senior guard Nick Trull dished out a team-high four assists. Hash and Tyrell McDowell finished with 11 points apiece.

Jones and Shugart were named to the All-Tournament team after turning in stellar efforts over the two-day event. Jones poured in a total of 69 points in the two contests, while Shugart averaged 16 points and 13 rebounds.

Eight teams from each of the eight regions will advance to the NCAA Division II tournament. In the Southeast Region, the tournament champions from the SAC, Peach Belt, and Conference Carolinas will receive an automatic bid, with five more at-large selections.

The NCAA will announce its 2012 tournament field Sunday night and the selections will be available beginning at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time on www.NCAA.com.

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