HOT SPRINGS, Ark. -- Solomon Bozeman stood on the court, staring into the crowd.
The senior had just hit a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds remaining to put Arkansas-Little Rock ahead of North Texas in the Sun Belt Conference championship game, and Bozeman wasn't quite ready to let the moment end on Tuesday night.
Bozeman's coaches were eventually able to guide him to the bench for a timeout after the shot, reminding him there was still time left.
After a UALR steal secured the 64-63 win, the Sun Belt's Player of the Year was able to begin celebrating the school's first trip to the NCAA tournament in 21 years.
"I was just happy I hit the shot," Bozeman said. "Coming in, the word had been on me from my previous four years of college that I hadn't been able to hit big shots and come through in big games, even in my high school career.
"I just didn't want to let this team down. I hit the shot and I was proud. I knew it was over. I knew we were going to the NCAA tournament."
Bozeman's shot capped a seven-point comeback in the final 2 minutes for the Trojans (19-16), who entered the tournament on a three-game losing streak and as a No. 5 seed. It also capped four wins in four days for UALR.
"I felt good coming into this tournament because of the parity in our league," UALR coach Steve Shields said.
"Obviously, I didn't come in thinking we were boiling with confidence, having lost three in a row."
North Texas (22-11), the defending tournament champion, led 59-52 after a layup by point guard Josh White with 1:42 remaining. However, a pair of Mean Green turnovers led to six straight points by the Trojans, who pulled within 59-58.
White answered for North Texas with a deep 3-pointer to extend the lead back to 62-58 with 30 seconds left, but Matt Mouzy answered on the other end with a 3-pointer to pull UALR within 62-61 with 17.6 seconds remaining.
"We're a great closing team," North Texas coach Johnny Jones said. "We had an opportunity to close them out.
"Unfortunately, it happened but that's part of basketball. I think you have to give a lot of credit to Little Rock for the plays they made at the end."
Mouzy got a steal on the inbound pass and had another 3-point attempt that missed and Tristan Thompson grabbed for the Mean Green and was fouled.
The North Texas senior, who hit a Sun Belt tournament record 20 of 20 free throws on Sunday and was averaging 26.7 points per game in the tournament, missed the first of his two attempts.
He hit the second to put the Mean Green up 63-61 with 7 seconds left, but the window was left open for Bozeman.
"It doesn't matter how tired I am," Thompson said. "I believe I can make them. I just missed the first one. I'm not going to make excuses. I should have made it."
During the timeout, Shields told Bozeman the ball would be in his hands and to look for either a game-tying two-point shot or a 3-pointer. Bozeman had no doubt about which he preferred.
"I knew the whole time I was going to go for the win," Bozeman said.
Bozeman took the inbound pass and made his way toward the left side of the court. After dribbling the ball into his left hand, he pulled up and sent the shot on its way.
It found its mark, earning the Trojans their first conference tournament title and first trip to the NCAAs since 1990. The success comes in Shield's eighth season as coach and follows an 8-22 record in 2009-10.
"I think this team has a certain amount of grit to them, a will to them," Shields said. "That's something we always talk about in timeouts, having that will and persistence no matter what the situation is."
KKCO firmly believes in freedom of speech for all and we are happy to provide this forum for the community to share opinions and facts. We ask that commenters keep it clean, keep it truthful, stay on topic and be responsible. Comments left here do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of KKCO 11News.powered by Disqus