Jackson State 72, Alcorn State 68
DALLAS (AP) _ Decarto Draper snatched a loose ball, then made two free throws with four seconds left to seal Jackson State’s 72-68 win over Alcorn State in a Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament semifinal Friday.
The second-seeded Tigers (13-15) advanced to their second straight SWAC tournament final and their fourth title game in five years. Their opponent Saturday will be Mississippi Valley State after an 87-78 overtime semifinal win over Texas Southern Friday night.
The SWAC tournament winner gets an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. Jackson State has never made the 64-team field.
The Tigers were in control for most of the game and were on the verge of putting it away when Trent Pulliam’s put-back with 4:52 left gave Jackson State a 70-59 lead, their largest of the game.
But Alcorn State (11-17) didn’t allow its archrival to make another field goal while scoring nine unanswered points.
Reuben Stiff made two free throws, Brian Adams made a layup, Eddrick Wheaton drilled a long jumper, Stiff made one of two foul shots and Wheaton added a put-back to close the Braves to 70-68 with 1:03 left.
Pulliam, who had traveled on Jackson State’s previous possession, then missed a 10-footer from the right baseline.
Alcorn called time out with 27 seconds left, then worked the ball in low to Wheaton for a short bank shot. He missed, but Karl Jones swatted it back to Wheaton for another try.
Wheaton went up with the ball, then decided at the last second to dump it to Jones. But the ball never got there, instead bouncing off a jumble of bodies and rolling into the lane.
Everyone broke for the ball, but coming up with it was Draper, a 6-foot-1 guard who was among the smaller guys on the floor at the time. He calmly sank both foul shots and the game was out of reach. Wheaton got off a 3-point attempt from just past halfcourt as time expired, but it fell way short.
Pulliam led Jackson State with 21 points, nine rebounds and four steals. All-SWAC honoree Robert Fairley had 12 points, all in the first half.
Jones paced Alcorn State with 23 points, although he had 18 at halftime. Stiff had 11 points and seven assists.
The win was the sixth straight for Jackson State. The Tigers haven’t lost since falling 53-52 to Alcorn on Feb. 8.
Jackson State will appear in its fifth SWAC final of the ’90s.
The Tigers only crown came in 1991, but that only earned a spot in an NCAA play-in game, which they lost to Coastal Carolina. Jackson State lost the SWAC final in ’93, ‘94 and ’96.
Alcorn had won four of its previous five games. The Braves were trying to make their first SWAC final since 1984.