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Western Kentucky 65, Florida International 63

The SportsXchange

For the second consecutive year, Western Kentucky won four games in four days at the Sun Belt Conference tournament to earn an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.

The Hilltoppers held off Florida International 65-63 Monday night in the Sun Belt's championship game in Hot Springs, Ark., to complete their run through the field.

George Fant and Jamal Crook combined for 22 points in the second half on their way to 34 points -- 17 each -- to lead Western Kentucky (20-15).

Crook scored his team's final six points.

He knocked down two free throws with 23.6 seconds remaining and his team up by only two points. After Florida International's Deric Hill missed a 3-pointer, Crook added another free throw with 5.7 seconds remaining to make it a five-point game. Florida International's Tymell Murphy hit a 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left to account for the final score.

Cameron Bell led the Panthers (18-14) with 15 points. Florida International shot only 38.7 percent to Western Kentucky's 46.9 percent,

The victory puts the Hilltoppers into the NCAA field for the fourth time in the past six seasons.

The Panthers, who had a first-round bye in the Sun Belt event, were attempting to earn their second NCAA appearance.
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