Bulldogs, G-Men, Bayou Bengals advance in league tourneys

NAILBITER: Louisiana Tech players celebrate a missed last-second shot by Western Kentucky Thursday night as the Bulldogs moved to today’s semifinals in the Conference USA Tournament


FRISCO, Texas — Louisiana Tech stayed alive in its pursuit of its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1991 as the Bulldogs overcame a season-high 20 turnovers and held off Western Kentucky 59-57 Thursday night at the Conference USA Tournament after blowing a 14-point lead.

WKU scored seven straight points to take a three-point lead with 3:47 left, but the Hilltoppers (19-13) missed their last four field goal attempts and their last three free throw attempts. Kenneth Lofton Jr. muscled up a layup with 24 seconds remaining to lift Tech (23-9) ahead by one, then added the first of two free throw tries with six seconds left to make it a two-point edge.

Western Kentucky rebounded the miss and weaved downcourt, but didn’t get the game-winner, instead missing a running, off-balance 3-pointer from 25 feet contested by two Bulldogs including Lofton at the final buzzer.

Keaston Willis had a game-high 17 points while Lofton secured his 17th double-double of the season with 15 points, 12 boards and five assists.

Tech advanced to an 11:30 a.m. semifinal matchup today against North Texas for a second straight season. UNT prevailed in that contest last year and swept the Bulldogs in two close game this season, 63-62 at Ruston on Jan. 29 and 56-49 in Denton on Feb. 26.

GRAMBLING 60, SOUTHERN 58: The Tigers held off a late Jaguars rally in the 2022 Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament quarterfinals in Birmingham. Sixth-seeded Grambling State (12-19), which swept the Jaguars in three meetings this season, will face second-seeded Texas Southern today at 2 in the semifinals. Tra’Micheal Moton nearly finished with a triple double with 12 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and three steals. Grambling missed a clinching dunk with 9.6 seconds left, but Southern failed on a 1-and-1 free throw chance with under three seconds left.

LSU 76, MISSOURI 68: In Tampa, a quick start by the Tigers launched LSU to the Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinals. The fifth-seeded Tigers will face Arkansas early Friday afternoon. LSU (22-10) has won six of its last nine games. SEC Sixth Man of the Year Tari Eason scored 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field. Darius Days recorded 16 points.

Photo courtesy LOUISIANA TECH