North Texas wins Sun Belt title

3-6-07 -- Calvin Watson hit six 3-pointers and scored 24 points to help North Texas get to its first NCAA tournament since 1988 with an 83-75 victory over Arkansas State in the Sun Belt Conference tournament championship on Tuesday night.

Watson, the Mean Green's season and career leader in 3-pointers, had lost his range in recent games, but rediscovered it at the right time, hitting his first five against the Indians.

It made the difference for North Texas (23-10), which held only slim leads most of the second half and missed 13 free throws.

Isaac Wells led Arkansas State (18-15) with 21 points. However, North Texas was able to disrupt Adrian Banks, who had 29 points in the semifinals a night earlier but finished with a relatively low 12 against the Mean Green.

Rich Young scored 15 points for North Texas, including a soaring one-handed jam and an alley-oop dunk in the last six minutes.

He was one of the few reliable free throw shooters for the Mean Green, going 7-of-8 from the line, 4-for-4 in the final minute.

Quincy Williams scored 12 for the Mean Green, while Ben Bell and Keith Wooden each scored 11.

Shawn Morgan scored 14 for ASU and Ryan Wedel 11.

Arkansas State was as close as 72-70 after Wells' 3-pointer with 3:05 left.

Young's dunk followed, then Harold Stewart scored his only basket of the game on a tip-in in a crowd and hit a free throw on the Mean Green's next possession to make it 77-70.

Wells scored again inside to make it 77-72, but that was as close as the Indians got as North Texas scored the next six points, all on foul shots, while ASU missed four straight field goal attempts, three of them from 3-point range.

North Texas started fast. Wooden scored seven quick points and the Mean Green connected on its first seven shots in taking an early 16-8 lead.

The lead was short-lived, however, as Jim Jones' 3-pointer ignited a 17-6 run that included Banks' baseline fadeaway and Wedel's 3-pointer, giving ASU a 25-22 lead.

From there, it was a tight first half with nine lead changes, the last when Young hit a pair of free throws to give North Texas a 37-36 lead at halftime.