(Story courtesy of Trinity University)
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The Trinity University Tiger men's basketball team beat Centre College 61-50 to win the 2012 Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship on Sunday afternoon at Bill Battle Coliseum, on the campus of Birmingham-Southern College. Box Score | Official Tournament Website
Trinity improved to 20-8 on the season, winning the team's 11th consecutive game. The SCAC Championship is the sixth overall for the Tigers, and the first since winning the SCAC Tournament in 2005.
The win also secure's the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Playoffs for Trinity, which will be its eighth postseason appearance in school history. All but one of those appearances have come under the direction of head coach Pat Cunningham, who is in his 13th season with the Tigers. It will be Trinity's first shot at the NCAA Playoffs since the 2008-09 season.
Trinity saw its 28-18 halftime lead shrink early in the second period, as Centre came out and grabbed control of the game. The Colonels used a 17-5 run over the first half of the period to pull ahead of the Tigers for a brief period.
Now it was Trinity's turn for a lopsided scoring run, scoring 17 of the next 20 points to take a 12-point lead with just 1:41 to play. Zach Lambert scored three-point baskets on three consecutive possessions to start Trinity's charge to the title, and had 13 of the team's 17 points during the run.
Centre got no closer than eight points the rest of the way, as the Tigers hit 13-16 from the foul line over the final 101 seconds of the game.
Lambert led all players with 26 points in the game, with 18 of those points coming in the second half. His 26 points ties Trinity's single-game record for a SCAC Tournament game. Lambert nailed 8-13 from the field and 7-8 from the line, hitting all three of his attempts beyond the arc.
Ryan Beall had nine rebounds for the third straight game to lead the Tigers to a 37-36 overall edge in rebounding. Beall also had five points and three assists. Jonathan Wilt chipped in with seven points and seven rebounds, while Robert Kitzinger and Heath Hopson scored six points each.
Jeff Mullaney led Centre with 11 points, while Greg Ross finished with 10 points and nine rebounds in the loss.
Centre was held to 20% shooting and just five field goals in the
first half, and the Colonels shot just 31% for the game.
Trinity hit over 40% to jump out to the big lead in the first half,
and though the team was held just under 37% in the second half, the
Tigers did hit 6-9 from the field during its 17-3 run that clinched
All-Tournament team honors went to Trinity's Lambert (MVP), Beall, Centre's Ross, Collin Lopez and Rhodes College's Andrew Galow.
Trinity will await the announcement from the NCAA on Monday regarding the 2012 Playoff bracket, which will determine sites and opponents for the first round of play.