Roger Woods scored 19 points and Arkansas Little Rock punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament with a dominant second half, beating Louisiana Monroe, 70-50, on Sunday in the Sun Belt Tournament final.
Trailing 33-28 at halftime, the Trojans raised their defensive intensity several notches and went on an 18-4 run to take control. Woods gave Arkansas-Little Rock the lead for good at 37-35, faking an outside shot and driving for an emphatic dunk with 15:01 left.
Marcus Johnson Jr. hit an open 3-pointer as the Trojans took their first double-digit lead, 53-42, at the 8:06 mark.
Woods, the tournament MVP, hit eight of 10 shots and added nine rebounds. Johnson scored 14 points for top-seeded Arkansas-Little Rock (29-4), which tied a Sun Belt conference record for wins in a season.
Justin Roberson had 17 points for second-seeded Louisiana-Monroe (20-13), which entered the final on a 10-game winning streak and having won 14 of its last 15 after a 6-11 start.
Getting little room to operate, the flustered Warhawks never recovered after committing four quick turnovers and missing their first six shots of the second half. They hit 6 of 25 after going 14 of 24 in the first half.
The closest they came in the last 8 minutes was nine points, and they could not capitalize on Arkansas-Little Rock’s rare mistakes.
When Josh Hagins’ pass on the perimeter was intercepted, Louisiana-Monroe gave the ball right back when an outlet pass was tipped off a player’s leg and out of bounds.
The Trojans began celebrating after Kemy Osse’s 3-pointer from the corner made it 64-50. They entered the tournament with an outside shot at at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament thanks to road victories over San Diego State and Tulsa, but they erased any doubt about their destination.