Two rivals traded blows throughout the first half, but in the end it was the regular season champ and Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks rolling over Sam Houston State to win the Southland Conference Tournament and advance to the NCAA Tournament with a 69-49 victory.
SFA (31-2) dominated the second half to upend Sam Houston State (23-10) and win its second Southland Conference Tournament and make its second NCAA Tournament appearance in school history.
Thomas Walkup provided the early spark for SFA scoring the team's first seven points of the ball game and continuing his assault on the Bearkats in the second half. He finished the night with 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting.
Southland Conference Player of the Year Jacob Parker was limited offensively with only 10 points but provided a much needed presence on defense for the Lumberjacks with 12 rebounds. The Lumberjacks won the battle on the glass 35-23 on the night.
Sam Houston State's total of 49 points was a season-low. The Bearkats' previous low was 53 points to SMU in a 72-53 loss in November.
SFA's 31 victories ties the most in school history, matching the 1971-72 season. The win also is the 28th straight for the Lumberjacks.
Deshaunt Walker came off the bench and got the crowd into the game for SFA hitting three clutch 3-pointers in the first half. His shots helped SFA go on a 14-4 run in the first half to pull ahead 31-26 after Sam Houston State had gone on a run to take a 22-17 lead. Walker finished the night with 12 points.
The Lumberjacks came out of the locker room in the second and jumped on the Bearkats to grab the momentum and quickly put the game out of reach after leading 33-28 at half. SFA went on a 21-8 run to go up 56-40 and deflated the Bearkats' hopes of a comeback.
With 31 wins on the season SFA matches No. 1 Florida. The Gators will play in the SEC Championship final on Sunday. Wichita State finished the regular season and Missouri Valley Conference Championship undefeated at 34-0 heading into the NCAA Tournament.
SFA will await its seeding and opponent in the NCAA Tournament during Sunday's NCAA Basketball Championship Selection Show on CBS. The Selection Show begins at 5 p.m.