HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP)- Richard Delk made a 3-pointer from the right wing with 13.2 seconds left, and top-seeded Troy scored the game's final seven points for a 54-48 win over two-time defending tournament champion Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt Conference semifinals Monday night.
Troy will face North Texas in Tuesday's title game.
The Trojans (20-11) blew a 16-point lead and fell behind 48-47 on a 3-pointer by Western Kentucky's A.J. Slaughter. Delk then scored off an offensive rebound to put Troy back in the lead. With Troy ahead 51-48 and the shot clock running down, Delk faked Western Kentucky's Steffphon Pettigrew in the air, stepped to the left and made his big 3-pointer that put the game away.
Pettigrew led the Hilltoppers (21-13) with 14 points.
Brandon Hazzard scored 17 points for the Trojans, all in the first half.
Opening Statement from Head Coach Ken McDonald: "I think it was a tale of two halves. I think our defensive intensity and rebounding effort wasn't there in the first half and that dug us a pretty good hole. I thought the second half we fought pretty heard to get back in position to win the game. We just couldn't finish it out. I think we had our chances at the end and just couldn't execute."
Question for Head Coach Ken McDonald: On coming from behind… "To start a game you never want to give a team confidence especially a team like Troy. They got some offensive rebounds and put backs and that hurt us. That was the tale of the first half, not enough defensive intensity. When we did have enough intensity, we just couldn't finish it out with a rebound. The second half I thought we did some good things. We got much more aggressive driving the ball. You can't beat yourself come tournament time. We dug ourselves a hole and we fought back. I don't think we ran out of gas. I think we didn't execute toward the end. We lost some aggressiveness."
Question for AJ Slaughter: On the first half… "We just dug ourselves a big hole and let up on defense. We couldn't get shots to fall or get to the rebounds on the offensive glass. We weren't boxing out so it allowed them to get a big lead and it took a lot out of us to fight back."
Question for AJ Slaughter: About the biggest struggle for the team… "It was definitely execution and some miscommunication. We just weren't doing what we were supposed to do."
Question for AJ Slaughter: On being his last year with Jeremy Evans and Anthony Sally… "It has been a great year for us we have had some up and downs. The biggest thing I look at is that we fought all the time. We stuck together and fought through the hard times. Even with our backs against the wall we fought."
Opening Statement from Head Coach Don Maestri: "Obviously we are very proud of this basketball team. When you get out to a big lead like we did against a good team in Western Kentucky, you know they are going to make a run which they did. When you can regain your composure and finish the game out is big thing. I was glad to see this team battle tonight when it got tough."
Question for Head Coach Don Maestri: how do you feel right now … "More satisfaction this time than relief. I think it was more like relief last night because we were the favored team to win the game. Tonight's game was just going to be a battle with two real good basketball teams. I think one thing Hazzard did for us was he took the heat off of us off the bat, he was on fire. It gave our kids confidence early in the game when he was focused. It is hard to read him because he is kind of a stoic-type of kid with his personality. At shoot around this morning and before the game, you could just tell he was focused tremendously. I think he was looking forward to this moment and took advantage of it, and he made our basketball team comfortable when we jumped out to the big lead. I really believe he was the catalyst for that."
Question for Head Coach Don Maestri: on Mike Vogler's shot … "That really was a great shot that should be in one of those Top 10 moments. I didn't think he could get it off, much less make it. It got under the goal and spun it backwards. It was such a big basket for us, as was Delk's basket. But one thing I noticed that we did tonight was rebound the basketball. I don't think we have ever outrebounded Western, I think this is the first game our kids battled the boards and did a good job in the rebounding department. When you don't give them a second shot, you give yourself a chance for success."
Question for Richard Delk: hitting a big shot … "I think I may have hit one in AAU, but nothing in college. That was a long time ago, but it was a big shot. I knew Mike (Vogler) was going to drive it so I tried to get open. I got it and pump faked and Pettigrew flew by, and I shot the three."
Question for Richard Delk: on falling behind … "We knew they were going to make a run. Coach told us to stay calm and we did, and we were able to battle through it."
Question for Brandon Hazzard: on the first half … "I was pretty focused. I didn't really sleep too much last night, and I think as ball players you wait your whole life for this one moment. We were taught this plan, and just to have the opportunity was special and our team took advantage of that. We are still not satisfied; we want to go ahead and focus on tomorrow and take care of the whole thing."