BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — John Walker III scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half and Texas Southern pulled away for an 87-62 victory over Alcorn State on Saturday in the championship game of the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament, earning the Tigers an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
PJ Henry had 11 of his 15 points in the first half to guide the second-seeded Tigers (18-12) to a 42-38 lead at intermission. Texas Southern shot 57% (16 of 28) in the first half and sank 3 of 6 from 3-point range. The top-seeded Braves (17-16) stayed in the game by making 14 of 18 free throws.
A layup by Justin Thomas pulled Alcorn State within 57-54 with 12:16 remaining, but Walker hit a jumper to spark an 11-0 run that he capped with two free throws and the Tigers led 68-54 with 8:41 left. Walker had a layup and two more free throws to end a 12-4 spurt to push TSU's lead to 80-58 at the 4:47 mark.
AJ Lawson finished with 14 points for the Tigers, who were playing in their fifth straight conference title game and earned a spot in the NCAA tourney for a 10th time in program history.
Thomas topped Alcorn State with 18 points. Freshman Byron Joshua scored 13.
The Braves beat Texas Southern twice during the regular season by a total of three points.
Alcorn State was aiming for it first SWAC tournament title in 20 years and its first berth in the NCAA Tournament since 1984 when the field was set at 48. The 12th-seeded Braves put a scare in No. 5 seed Kansas before losing 57-56 in the first round.
For more AP college basketball coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25