Lucas’ free throws cap wild finish in MVSU 59-58 win over Jackson St.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP)—Carl Lucas made two free throws with 0.4 seconds left and Mississippi Valley State defeated Jackson State 59-58 to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament on Saturday night.
Jackson State’s Catraiva Givens put the fourth-seeded Tigers up 58-56 with 27.3 seconds left. Stanford Speech made one of two free throws for the No. 2 seed Delta Devils to draw them within one and Chris Watson kept the possession alive with an offensive rebound.
The Delta Devils (19-15) clinched their first trip to the NCAA tournament since 1996 while denying Jackson State a chance for its second straight bid.
“My teammates, they held it down for me because I started slow, and in the end it came down to me and I said I had to win it for them because they held it down for me,” said Lucas, who was keeping his MVP trophy close throughout the postgame festivities. “No pressure at all.”
Mississippi Valley State (17-15) scrambled for a last-second shot before finding Lucas streaking toward the basket. Jackson State (13-20) took a time out to try to freeze Lucas, but the junior calmly swished both free throws. Lucas had seven points and six rebounds.
“It felt like three hours almost, but I kept my composure,” Lucas said. “I knew they would go in. We practice free throws every day, every time we step on the court. I just go through my same routine and knock them down.”
The Tigers didn’t lead in the second half until there was 1:14 remaining when Darrion Gordon, who led all scorers with 24 points, made a 3-pointer from the wing at the end of a 13-1 run.
“We told them, focus on the championship, focus on finishing the game, get the championship,” Jackson State coach Tevester Anderson said. “We got down, but I knew we could come back.”
MVSU featured a balanced scoring attack in which eight Delta Devils had between five and 10 points, led by Chris Watson. Jeremy Caldwell, who was whistled for the foul on Lucas, scored 11 points and had eight rebounds for the Tigers.