PENSACOLA, Fla. – Themus Fulks scored a career-high 23 points, Jordan Brown had 13 points and 16 rebounds and second-seeded Louisiana beat No. 8 seed South Alabama 71-66 on Monday night to claim the Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship.
The fifth NCAA Tournament berth for Louisiana (26-7) will be its first since 2014.
Louisiana’s first lead of two points or more came with 12:06 remaining in the second half on a put-back by Terence Lewis II for a 49-46 advantage.
After South Alabama went 1 of 2 from the line, Jalen Dalcourt made a jumper in the lane with 27.7 seconds left to extend Louisiana’s lead to 67-64. The Jaguars struggled all game from the stripe, going 17 of 28.
Isaiah Moore made two free throws with 17.1 seconds left to get South Alabama within 67-66, but Lewis answered with two makes at the other end to regain a three-point advantage. South Alabama guard Owen White had a long 3-pointer rattle out in the closing seconds and Kentrell Garnett sealed it with two free throws at 1.4.
Dalcourt finished with 13 points and Lewis added 12 points for the Ragin’ Cajuns. Dalcourt and Fulks each made three of Louisiana’s eight 3-pointers.
South Alabama (19-16), which knocked off No. 1 seed Southern Miss 78-61 on Saturday, was going for its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2008.
Moore scored a career-high 33 points for South Alabama. Kevin Samuel had two blocks in the first half to set a South Alabama single-season record with 86. Samuel also scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds.
Moore, averaging 18.5 points per game, scored 13 of South Alabama’s opening 20 points to help build a six-point lead. The Jaguars led 37-33 at halftime behind 63% shooting and Moore’s 16 points.
South Alabama had a chance at a seven-point possession late in the second half, but ended up with just two to get within 58-56. Samuel made a shot in the lane while being fouled and a Flagrant 2 foul was called following a review. Samuel missed two free throws and Moore was off on a layup attempt.