FRISCO, TX (KAUZ) - Entering the tournament with two straight losses, UT-Permian Basin had a slow start Friday before the defending champions of the LSC Championship clicked into high gear.
Thanks to a 24-4 run midway through the second half, the second-seeded Falcons turned a six-point deficit into a comfortable lead and were able to get past a gritty MSU squad, the No. 7 seed at Kitty Magee Arena in Denton.
Trailing 48-42 with 15:28 left, UTPB (23-5) turned things around thanks to a pair of dunks by two-time All-LSC Player of the Year Daeshon Francis and then two straight 3-pointers from James McPherson, who had struggled beyond the arc before drilling consecutive shots.
The Falcons kept pouring it on, led by Francis, who finished with a game-high 26 points, to go along with 15 rebounds. McPherson ended up with four 3-pointers for 14 points. Sammy Allen, plagued by fouls most the game, had eight points, seven rebounds and four assists in just 18 minutes. Andres Villa and Zeldric King both came off the bench to score nine points each, mostly from the paint.
The Mustangs entered the game rather undersized, having dismissed forward Wanaah Bail from the team earlier this week and with senior post Josh Huntley badly hobbled by an ankle injury. The Falcons were able to win the rebounding edge 46-35 and outscored the Mustangs in the paint, 46-26.
The season ends for MSU at 11-18. Senior guard Devante Pullum had 21 points and five assists. Trey Kennedy joined him in double figures with 12 points. All-LSC second-team standout Brandon Neel struggled from the floor, shooting just 2 of 14 for seven points.
The Falcons not only advance to Saturday's semifinal game back in Frisco, but continue their quest to defend the tournament crown. Also, UTPB has a shot to move up to No. 1 in the regional rankings and potentially host the tournament in Odessa.
While it took nearly 24 hours to complete, West Texas A&M is moving on in the Lone Star Conference Women's Basketball Championship after beating Midwestern State, 70-49 Friday afternoon at Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco.
Due to unsafe playing conditions on Thursday, the WT-MSU game was interrupted at halftime with the Lady Buffs leading by six. When play finally resumed Friday in Frisco, WT (24-4) quickly established control, pushing the lead out to 15 by the end of the third.
In the fourth, MSU could only trim the lead as close as 10, but still fell victim to WT's size, which helped the Lady Buffs win the rebounding edge 54-37.
The season ends for the No. 7 seeded Mustangs at 13-13. WT advances to Saturday's semifinal game at 12 p.m. to face Texas A&M-Commerce, the No. 3 seed that beat Cameron on Thursday.
Three players paced the Lady Buffs in double-figure scoring, led by Madison Parker and Lexy Hightower with 13 points each. Parker also added 14 rebounds, while four other WT players had at least five rebounds, including Megan Gamble, who posted 12 points and five steals.
For the Mustangs, Micheline Mercelita was the only player in double figures, scoring 11 points with 10 rebounds.
West Texas A&M is seeking its 14th LSC Tournament Championship, but first since 2015. Overall, the Lady Buffs have more tournament titles than all other current LSC members combined (13-12).