DENTON, Texas (AP) _ Anthony Pullard scored 15 of his 24 points in the second half Wednesday night as McNeese State clinched its first-ever NCAA tournament berth with an 85-68 victory over North Texas in the finals of the Southland Conference Tournament.

Tournament MVP Michael Cutright added 23 points for the Cowboys, 16-13, who finished second behind North Texas in the regular season.

Ricky Robertson led the Eagles with 15 points. Deon Hunter, the Southland Conference player of the year, was held to eight points and did not score in the first half.

North Texas, 14-15, cut a 14-point halftime deficit to nine on four occasions in the second half, but the Cowboys responded each time, quieting the partisan crowd.

After North Texas pulled to 55-46 with 11:10 left, Pullard scored six points during a 7-2 run as McNeese stretched its advantage to 62-48.

Then after the Eagles had pulled to 64-55 with 7:06 left, Pullard answered with another field goal. North Texas got no closer than 10 points the rest of the way.

Dwayne Davis converted all 12 of his free throw attempts and finished with 16 points for McNeese.

North Texas was fortunate to be down only 39-25 at the half.

The Eagles shot just 30 percent from the field and converted only 5 of 12 free throws during the first 20 minutes. Hunter took only three shots from the field and did not score.

Cutright, who scored 22 points Tuesday in the Cowboys' 80-65 victory over Northeast Louisiana, sat out the final 4:06 of the first half after picking up his second and third fouls 53 seconds apart. He left with 15 points and the Cowboys leading, 32-23.

McNeese State responded by scoring the next seven points. Pullard picked up the slack, hitting a 17-foot jumper and adding a three-point play when he was fouled on a shot from the baseline.

Davis scored from the lane to give the Cowboys their biggest lead of the half, 39-23.