Courtesy: Southland Conference
KATY - The New Orleans Privateers enjoyed a perfect effort from guard Jorge Rosa along with a pair of clutch free throws from Troy Green that propelled them to a 79-76 shocker over No. 1-seed Sam Houston State at Merrell Center on Friday evening.
The win puts them in Saturday’s Southland Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament final with a chance to return to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament for the second time in three years.
“What a phenomenal two days of basketball,” said New Orleans’ (19-12) coach Mark Slessinger. “We’re extremely blessed to come out of it with two wins against two incredibly coached teams. Every guy has made an incredible contribution in the last 48 hours.”
Privateers’ center Scott Plaisance was one of those players who stepped up, as his ability to get a hand in the face of Bearkats’ guard Josh Delaney was the difference in Delaney having to hoist his game-tying attempt from long range sooner than anticipated. The shot bounced off the rim and into the hands of Green as the final horn sounded.
“In my opinion, he’s (Plaisance) been the difference to their team the past couple of weeks,” said Sam Houston State coach Jason Hooten.
Green was also a huge contributor to the win. Not only did he pull in the game-ending rebound, Green knocked down four free throws in the final 48 seconds to keep the hard-charging Bearkats (21-11) at bay.
Rosa hit all seven of his field goal attempts, including four 3-pointers to finish with a team-high 18 points, many of which came at times when the Privateers were enduring foul trouble. The 18 points matched his career high and was only the sixth time he had reached double figures in scoring this season.
The Bearkats hung tough throughout the first half despite shooting only 31.3 percent from the field. Perfect accuracy from the free throw line (12-for-12) and pristine marksmanship from the field by All-Southland Conference third teamer Kai Mitchell (4-for-4) kept Sam Houston in the game despite never gaining ownership of the lead.
Like Mitchell, Rosa was a sign of perfection for the Privateers, as he connected on all seven of his shot attempts, including four 3-pointers. However, foul trouble haunted UNO, which spent much of the first half without starters Gerrale Gates, Plaisance and Rosser, each of whom had two fouls.
UNO never trailed yet was unable to pull away from Sam Houston despite shooting 52.9 percent from the field. The Bearkats scored 20 second-chance points and nailed all 22 of their free throw attempts to keep it interesting until the final horn. Southland Conference Player of the Year Cameron Delaney shot 3-for-13 from the field and finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
Josh Delaney’s 3-pointer tied the game at 69 with 2:30 to go, but Plaisance gave New Orleans the lead for good with his layup at the 2:00 mark. The sequence personified the night for the Bearkats, who were unable to garner the lead against the Privateers.
“We were trading buckets all game, but we couldn’t get a stop on defense,” said Cameron Delaney. “I felt like if we could have got the lead one time, it would have been a different story.”
While the Bearkats, winners of the regular-season title, will likely head to the National Invitational Tournament, the Privateers will have a chance to be one of 68 teams bidding to win the NCAA title.
“It’s going to feel good,” said Rosa. “Second time being here, I remember what happened before. We’ll enjoy this win and then wake up (Saturday morning) and focus on what we have to do.”
Added Damon Rosser, “We’ve gotta do work, because I want to feel March Madness and I know my teammates do, too.”