HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - The smallest man on the floor came up bigger than everyone and North Texas is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in the last four seasons. Josh White scored with 22 seconds left and hit a free throw with 2.9 seconds remaining in the game to lift North Texas (24-8) to a 66-63 win over the Troy Trojans (20-12) in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championship game.
Eric Tramiel was named the Most Outstanding Player for the Tournament after his second double-double of the tournament as he poured in 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the win. George Odufuwa, who grabbed 17 rebounds to go along with 11 points, was also named to the All-Tournament team.
With the game tied at 63-63, White hit a 12-footer in the lane to make it 65-63 North Texas. Troy missed on the other end and the Mean Green captured the loose ball. White was fouled twice and made one of two from the line with 2.9 seconds left. A 3-pointer at the buzzer by Michael Vogler fell short and the Mean Green had its third berth to the NCAA Tournament in hand.
The win is the 11th straight for North Texas and a new single season school record with 24 victories on the year.
The Mean Green began the second half with a 13-4 run to turn a two-point deficit into a 51-44 lead with 13 minutes left in the game. Collin Mangrum 3-pointer with 7:52 left kept North Texas ahead by seven before one final push by the Trojans.
A Brandon Hazzard 3-pointer made it a two-point game at 61-59 with less than four minutes to play. The Trojans tied the game at 63 with 53 seconds remaining setting up the final heroics by White.
"I feel like with this program the sky is the limit, we are on the rise right now and it just feels great right now," said Odufuwa. "At the end of the day there is only one champion."
The Mean Green jumped out to an early 9-4 lead three minutes into the game after a 3-poinnt play from Eric Tramiel.
A very fast paced half, the Trojans rallied with a 12-4 run to take a 15-13 lead with 13:05 left. North Texas came right back with a 3-pointer from Tramiel and then a 3-point play from Odufuwa to pull back in front 21-17.
The pace continued to quicken as Troy opened up a 30-26 lead on a dunk and a foul for Yamene Coleman. North Texas battled back with four straight points from Alzee Williams to cut the Trojan lead to one-point at 32-31 with 4:24 left in the half.
A Michael Vogler 3-pointer with under a minute left in the half gave the Trojans a two-point lead at 40-38. The first half saw 12 lead changes and six ties.
Four players scored in double figures for the Mean Green as they held Troy to just 28 percent shooting in the second half.