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Conference tournament championships roundup: Northern Kentucky tops Wright State 77-66 to earn NCAA bid

Conference tournament championships roundup: Northern Kentucky tops Wright State 77-66 to earn NCAA bid
Northern Kentucky forward Dantez Walton (32) pulls down a rebound from Wright State forward Billy Wampler (1) in the first half on Tuesday in the Horizon League conference tournament championship in Detroit. (Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

Dantez Walton had 15 points and 14 rebounds for his first double-double, leading second-seeded Northern Kentucky to a 77-66 win Tuesday night over top-seeded Wright State in the Horizon League Tournament final and into the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.

The Norse (26-8) had control of the entire game with four starters and a reserve scoring in double figures. Jalen Tate scored 17 points, Zaynah Robinson had 15 points off the bench, Horizon League player of the year and tournament MVP Drew McDonald had 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists, and Tyler Sharpe added 11 points.

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The Raiders (21-13) struggled to score, making it difficult to come back in a game they trailed for nearly 39 minutes.

All-Horizon League player Loudon Love was 2 of 13 and scored nine points, reserve Bill Wampler had 16 points and Mark Hughes and Cole Gentry each scored 15 points for Wright State, which shot 37.5 percent.

The Raiders scored first and didn't lead again in a matchup of teams that shared the regular-season title after each team won by four points on its home court.

Early on, it didn't look like the series-breaker was going to be closely contested.

The Norse led by 18 points with 5:02 left in the first half, and Gentry made a 3-pointer from about 30 feet to cut the Raiders' deficit to 44-34 at halftime. Northern Kentucky went on an 11-3 run midway through the second half to lead by 19 points and coasted to victory.

CAA: Northeastern 82, Hofstra 74: Vasa Pusica had 21 points, all on 3-pointers, and Northeastern regrouped after blowing a double-digit lead to defeat top-seeded Hofstra 82-74 and win the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament on Tuesday night.

The second-seeded Huskies (23-10) won the league's automatic NCAA Tournament berth for the second time in five seasons — and perhaps exorcised a bad memory from last year's finals.

Then, Northeastern held a 17-point second half lead over College of Charleston in the finals, but wound up losing in overtime. It appeared the same thing might happen this year, too. Hofstra used a 28-12 run over the first 10 minutes after halftime to erase a 16-point deficit and tie the game 54-all.

That's when the senior Pusica took charge. His fourth 3-pointer put the Huskies back in front. Pusica added another long-range basket three minutes later for a 66-58 lead. By the time he made his sixth 3, Northeastern led 71-60.

The Pride (26-8) could not recover despite 29 points from the nation's second-leading scorer, Justin Wright-Foreman.

Northeastern is headed to its ninth NCAA Tournament while Hofstra, as the CAA regular-season champions, has a guaranteed spot in the NIT. The Pride were seeking their first NCAA berth since 2001 when Villanova coach Jay Wright was leading Hofstra's program.

Northeast: Fairleigh Dickinson 85, St. Francis (Pa.) 76: Darnell Edge scored 21 points, Kaleb Bishop and Jahlil Jenkins added 20 points apiece, and Fairleigh Dickinson earned its second trip to the NCAA tournament in four years with an 85-76 victory over St. Francis (Pa.) in the Northeastern Conference Tournament championship on Tuesday night.

The second-seeded Knights (20-13) shot 64 percent (30 of 47) from the field and beat the top-seeded Red Flash (18-14) on the road for the second time this season. All five starters for the Knights scored in double figures. Elyjah Williams and Mike Holloway Jr. scored 12 points each for Fairleigh Dickinson, which used a 17-8 run to close the first half to take control and never let St. Francis get closer than three in the second half.

Bishop made 8 of his 10 shots for the Knights, including all three of his 3-point attempts, and added a team-high 10 rebounds.

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The Red Flash were searching for their first NCAA appearance since 1991 and just the second in school history but couldn't slow the Knights down when it mattered.

Jamaal King led St. Francis with 21 points and eight assists. Isaiah Blackmon finished with 13 points, but the Red Flash made just 4 of 17 free throws while Fairleigh Dickinson converted 18 of 20 at the line.

Summit: North Dakota State 73, Omaha 63: Vinnie Shahid scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half, and North Dakota State beat Omaha 73-63 on Tuesday night in the Summit League Tournament title game to earn its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2015.

The No. 4-seeded Bison (17-15) also got 15 points and seven rebounds from Tyson Ward.

North Dakota State saw a 14-point second-half lead evaporate before securing the win with a late run. Omaha (21-10) tied it at 51 with 8:37 to play and had a chance at the lead, but Matt Pile missed a free throw on a potential three-point play. From there, the Bison went on a 9-0 run and were never threatened again, sealing the win with free throws down the stretch.

Mitch Hahn scored 16 points and Zach Jackson had 15 for Omaha. Pile finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds while KJ Robinson scored 11 points.

Ward got back on track after scoring a season-low three points in North Dakota State's semifinal win over Western Illinois. He had 25 points in a quarterfinal win over Oral Roberts.

Ward had 11 against Omaha at halftime, and then Shahid took over. Shahid's 3-pointer as the shot clock expired with 2:10 remaining lifted the lead back to 10.

The No. 2-seeded Mavericks had gone the final 6:44 of the first half without a field goal. North Dakota State built a 41-27 halftime lead.

NCAA Automatic Bids

Bradley, Missouri Valley Conference

Fairleigh Dickinson, Northeast Conference

Gardner-Webb, Big South Conference

Iona, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Liberty, Atlantic Sun Conference

Murray State, Ohio Valley Conference

Northeastern, Colonial Athletic Association

Northern Kentucky, Horizon League

North Dakota State, Summit League

Saint Mary's (Calif.), West Coast Conference

Wofford, Southern Conference

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