How Sweet It Is; Trojans Advance to Southeast Region Championship Matchup

Box Score

MONTEVALLO, Ala. – Guards Denzail Jones and Nick Trull combined for 43 points, as 14tnh-ranked and third-seeded Anderson defeated seventh-seeded and fellow South Atlantic Conference-member Wingate, 71-63, in the semifinals of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Southeast Region Tournament Saturday evening at Montevallo’s Bank Trust Arena.  

With the win, Anderson (26-5), the defending  Southeast Region Champion, advances to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive year after defeating Wingate for the third time this season and avenging a seven-point setback to the Bulldogs in the South Atlantic Conference Tournament title game. The Trojans continue to add to the school record for wins in a season after earning its sixth consecutive regional victory going back to last year and won for the 19th time in the last 21 games.   

Wingate saw its season end at 21-12.

The Trojans will meet No 1 seed and host Montevallo on Tuesday in a bid for their second consecutive trip to the NCAA D-II Elite Eight in Highland Heights, Ky.       

Anderson forced three Bulldog turnovers inside the first three minutes as the Trojans gained an early 13-2 lead, while the AU defense was stellar in the early going, holding Wingate to just one field goal in the opening four-plus minutes.   

With the score knotted inside the first minute at 2-2, senior Jo’el Lamb sparked an 11-0 run with a trey, and back to back 3-pointers from senior guard Nick Trull and junior guard Denzail Jones gave the Trojans a 13-2 lead at the 16-10 mark.

Wingate countered with a 7-0 run of its own, with seniors Taylor Shugart and Tyrell McDowell snapping the Bulldog run with inside baskets. Shugart, a 6-foot-7 center, poured in seven points in the game’s first 12 minutes.

Sophomore Chandler Hash drained a 3-pointer from deep in the left corner midway through the first half and Jones connected on two free throws a minute later to give AU its’ largest lead of the frame, at 25-12 with 9:08 remaining.
But Wingate again answered, going on a 10-1 run over the next three minutes to narrow Anderson’s cushion to just four points with more than six minutes on the clock.

The Bulldogs’ Quan Alexander narrowed the gap to 28-26 with a pair of free throws with less than three minutes on the clock and Jamie Vaughn gave Wingate its first lead of the game with a trey from the top of the circle, but the Bulldogs’ first lead of the night was brief, as AU’s Stephen Cobb answered with a 3-pointer for the Trojans, giving Anderson a 31-29 lead with 1:28 left before the half.

Vaughn tied the score again at 31-31 with two free throws, while Trull hit two from the line with 29.6 seconds to snap just the second tie of the game, giving Anderson a 33-31 edge, then drew a charge on Vaughn with exactly nine seconds left to stop a Wingate attempt to tie or take the lead at halftime.

AU scored first six points of the second half to open a 39-31 advantage, but again Wingate rallied, this time with an 11-3 outburst, to knot the score for the final time of the contest. Trull, who had five first-half points, scored 10 of Anderson’s next 17 points as the Trojans pushed back out to a double-digit advantage with 7:06 left.

Wingate chipped away and pulled within 61-58 inside the final five minutes, but would get no closer, as Jones connected on a pair of free throws and Trull followed with his fourth trey of the game.

Trull finished with a game-high 22 points, while Jones added 21 points and handed out a career-high eight assists. Stephen Cobb pulled down a season-high nine rebounds.

Vaughn scored netted 19 points with three rebounds for the Bulldogs, while Chase Smith added 12 points.   

Tip-off for Tuesday’s championship tilt is slated for 7 p.m. (Central) at Bank Trust Arena.

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