Monday, March 19, 2018

Lions clinch top seed in Southland Conference Tournament

Posted: Saturday, March 3, 2018 | Views: 810

Lions clinch top seed in Southland Conference Tournament
HAMMOND, La. – The 2017-18 Southeastern Louisiana men's basketball team will have at least one banner hanging in the rafters of the University Center.

The Lions clinched a share of the Southland Conference regular season title and the number one seed in next week's conference tournament with a 69-57 win over Nicholls on Saturday in the University Center. Southeastern also secured an automatic bid to the National Invitational Tournament as the top seed in the conference.

The Lions (21-10, 15-3 Southland) will look to punch a ticket to the NCAA Tournament when it begins play in the semifinals of the Southland Conference Tournament Friday at 5 p.m. in the Merrell Center in Katy, Texas against an opponent to be determined.

It is the first Southland regular season title for Southeastern since the 2004-05 season and the third since the Lions joined the conference in 1997-98.

"We talked to our players about this is what we worked so hard for, not just this year but a culmination of the past four years – to be in these type of games so embrace it and have fun and enjoy it," Southeastern head coach Jay Ladner said. "To win a Southland Conference title for the third time is very gratifying but we are not satisfied yet. Our players are not satisfied. This certainly a major accomplishment but now the challenge is to go back and do it again next week."

Southeastern, who won their eighth straight, led for the final 30:28 of the game in holding Nicholls (21-10, 15-3 Southland) to 26 points below its season average.

Junior forward Moses Greenwood had a game-high 18 points and three blocks to go with eight rebounds for the Lions. Junior guard Marlain Veal contributed 14 points and had eight assists in becoming Southeastern's single-season assist leader with 190. Senior forward Eddy Polanco had the first double-double of his Lion career with 11 points and a career-high 10 rebounds. Junior guard Keith Charleston tossed in 10 points. Southeastern shot 43.1 percent from the field and committed just eight turnovers against a defense that ranked fourth in the nation in turnovers forced coming in.

Roddy Peters and Lafayette Rutledge each had 12 points for Nicholls, which will be the number two seed in the Southland Tournament. Peters also had team-highs of eight rebounds and four assists. Kimani Jackson added 11 points and six rebounds. The Colonels shot 35.0 percent and were held to six assists.

Nicholls took its final lead of the game at 13-12 on a tip-in by Peters with 10:28 left in the first half. Veal put Southeastern ahead with a 3. After Daniel Regis tied it at 15 with a layup, freshman forward Brandon Gonzalez put the Lions ahead for good with a 3 from the left wing at the 9:10 mark.

Gonzalez hit another 3 to give Southeastern a 23-16 lead with 8:08 remaining in the half. Charleston hooked in a shot with 1:09 left to give the Lions a 32-23 lead at the half.

Southeastern opened the second half on a 10-2 run to pull out to a 42-25 lead on a short jumper by Greenwood with 16:38 remaining. A three-point play by Veal gave the Lions their biggest lead at 50-30 at the 13:55 mark. Jackson trimmed the deficit to 54-41 with a three-point play with 11:30 left. But Southeastern answered with six straight points, pushing the lead back to 60-41 on a Greenwood layup with 9:01 left.

A pair of free throws by Jackson got the deficit down to 60-47 with 5:31 remaining. Nicholls had a chance to pull closer but Jahvaughn Powell's 3 rimmed out. Senior guard Joshua Filmore answered with a 3, extending the Lions' lead to 63-47 with 5:06 left. The Colonels got to within 65-57 on a 3 by Powell with 2:57 remaining but were held scoreless the rest of the way.

Southeastern honored its four seniors – Polanco, Filmore, Jordan Capps and James Currington – prior to the game.

Southeastern's eight-game win streak is its longest since joining Division I in 1980-81.

Southeastern's 21 wins are its second most in Division I behind the 2004-05 team's 24.

Southeastern held Nicholls to its two lowest scoring outputs of the season. The Lions took a 67-63 win at Nicholls on Jan. 27.

Veal broke Leo McClure's 1976-77 record of 188 assists. He moved to within one of McClure's career record of 432 assists.

Filmore played in his 111th career game, tying Joe Venable (1983-87) and Jonathan Walker (2002-06) for sixth most in Lion history.

Southland Conference Tournament Ticket Information
The Southeastern Louisiana Athletics Ticket Office encourages all Lion and Lady Lion fans to purchase tickets for the Southland Conference Basketball Tournament on March 7-11 at the Merrell Center in Katy, Texas through the SLU Ticket Office.

Southeastern is selling all-tournament books that includes tickets for all eight sessions of the tournament for $70. Single-session tickets are on sale for $20. Tickets can be picked up at the Southeastern Athletics Ticket Office, which is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. The ticket office number is (985) 549-5466.

SLU fans who purchase tickets on game day at the Merrell Center are encouraged to visit the Southeastern Athletics window at the tournament site.