Western Kentucky wins back-to-back Sun Belt titles

Updated: March 11, 2013

Western Kentucky completed another
improbable run to the NCAA Tournament on Monday, as George Fant’s 17-point,
13-rebound effort led the Hilltoppers past the FIU Golden Panthers, 65-63, in
the finals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.

A year after winning the conference tourney as a No. 7 seed, the Hilltoppers
captured the crown seeded sixth, winning four games in four days to earn the
program’s 23rd trip to the NCAA Tournament and fourth in the past six years.

Jamal Crook also scored 17 points for Western Kentucky (20-15), including
critical free throws down the stretch to seal the win. Brandon Harris added 12
points — all on 3-pointers — for the victors.

FIU (18-14), which took down a 28-win Middle Tennessee squad in the semis as
the No. 4 seed, was vying for its second NCAA Tournament bid and first since
1995. But the Panthers shot just 39 percent from the floor to fall short in
Richard Pitino’s first year as their head coach.

Cameron Bell led the Panthers with 15 points, Malik Smith chipped in 14 and
Jerome Frink checked in with 13 in the loss.