March 14, 2015

HOUSTON (AP) Alabama State wrapped up an NCAA Tournament berth Friday with its semifinal victory in the Southwestern Athletic Conference because Southern was ineligible after failing to meet minimum APR requirements

That wasn't enough. The Lady Hornets wanted a ring and the prestige that comes with winning the conference tournament.

They got it.

Jasmine Peeples had 18 points and eight rebounds, and Britney Wright added 17 points to help Alabama State beat Southern 73-55 on Saturday.

''I told my girls, `We want the hats. We want the T-shirts, we want the trophy and we want the ring.' And they bought into it and thought the same thing,'' Alabama State coach Freda Freeman-Jackson said. ''When I mentioned to these ladies they said they want to win.''

The fourth-seeded Lady Hornets (17-14) took an early 11-point lead and never trailed against the top-seeded Jaguars (20-11).

''We were just looking at it as 40 minutes of hard work,'' Peeples said. ''Forty minutes of hustle and desire and we'll have a ring and come out on top.''

Alabama State shot 68 percent in the first 14 minutes. Sophomore point guard Kayla Tucker, who finished with 10 points, hit three 3-pointers in the first 4 minutes.

''When you play a young team like that it's important to jump out on them early,'' Southern coach Sandra Pugh said. ''We had some miscues in terms of understanding what we were doing and we let them get a couple of buckets and I thought that's what got them going.''

The Lady Jaguars shot 30 percent in the first half and were down 33-18 with 6 minutes to go and trailed 36-22 at the half.

The first-half damage was too much to overcome for Southern. The teams traded buckets throughout the second half, with Southern only able to get within 10 once at the 9:11 mark.

Southern entered the tournament missing seven players as the result of a fight in the final regular-season game against Texas Southern. The suspensions and one dismissal left the team with just eight eligible players in the opener.

From the suspensions to the loss in the title game it was a tough week for the Lady Jaguars, one that almost did not happen. Southern petitioned to have two players, including leading scorer Kendra Coleman reinstated for the tournament. It wasn't until Tuesday's practice that they made the determination if they would play in the tournament or not.

Coleman led Southern with 18 points, however, it was difficult to focus considering all the outside attention.

''Emotionally, I was really drained,'' Coleman said. ''With me being young and hearing everything and everybody being in and out of my head with this and that; when it came down to the game I put it out of my head and focused ... I wanted to be there for my team.''

Southern beat Alabama State 72-58 in their last meeting.

TIP INS

Alabama State: Redshirt junior guard Brittney Smith set season highs in points with 10 and rebounds with nine and also had six assists.

Southern: Shot 32 percent, it's third-lowest of the season.

DOUBLE-DIGIT SUCCESS

Pugh knew heading into the game that one way Alabama State would win be getting multiple players into double figures. ''I told my assistants before the game they need at least three people in double-figures,'' Pugh said. Five of the Lady Hornets seven scorers hit the double-figure mark on their way to the win.

UP NEXT

Alabama State: NCAA Tournament.

Southern: The Lady Jaguars season came to an end Saturday.

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