|Tuesday, March 11
Wells leads way as Hilltoppers snare NCAA berth
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- Mike Wells had 18 points and 10 rebounds as Western Kentucky beat Middle Tennessee 64-52 Tuesday night to win the Sun Belt Conference tournament and an automatic bid to the NCAAs.
Patrick Sparks bounced back from a poor first half to score 12 points and hand out seven assists for the Hilltoppers (24-8). His five steals started the fastbreaks that allowed Western Kentucky to pull away.
The Hilltoppers broke a 23-all halftime tie with 7-0 and 11-2 runs to take a 43-29 lead with just more than 11 minutes left. The Blue Raiders (16-14) never recovered.
After shooting 43.5 percent in the first half, Middle Tennessee struggled through scoreless droughts of 6:58, 3:10 and 3:05 in the second half.
Tommy Gunn, who scored 19 points against Denver in Monday night's semifinal, had just 11 on 4-for-10 shooting this time.
William Pippen led the Blue Raiders with 12 points.
Middle Tennessee shot better from the floor than Western Kentucky, 41.5 percent (22-of-53) to 40 percent (20-of-50), but the Blue Raiders went to the foul line just 11 times -- making six.
The Hilltoppers were 18-of-24 from the line.