No. 20 Comets Hold Off Hardin-Simmons, 78-69, For ASC Title

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RICHARDSON, TX (03.02.14) - For the first time since 2009, the UT Dallas men's basketball team is the American Southwest Conference Tournament Champion after avenging its only home loss of the season with a 78-69 win over Hardin-Simmons in the title game Sunday afternoon.

The Comets (now 25-3) collected their third ASC title in program history and will earn the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Division III National Tournament. UTD will learn at 11:30 a.m. Monday where and when its postseason experience continues as the Comets will return to the national tournament for the first time since 2011.

UTD used a 15-0 run that spanned the halftime break to turn a rough start into a conference title. Trailing 33-26 with 2:04 left in the first half, the Comets scored the final 10 points of the first half, including a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Matthew Medell, and started the second period with five quick points, all by Medell, to grab an eight-point cushion just 1:23 into the final frame. UTD would never trail in the second half, not allowing HSU any closer than four points over the 10 minutes of contest.

The Cowboys scored the first four points of the game and grabbed a 13-5 lead with 15:18 left in the first half as UTD managed just two field goal attempts in the six minutes of the contest. HSU grabbed its largest lead with13:27 left in the half when Jim Walter drained a three-pointer to give the Cowboys a 16-7 advantage. However, the Comets then came alive with eight straight points by Nolan Harvey, giving UTD its first lead of the game, 17-16, with 10:50 before the break.

After UTD extended its lead to two points after a Carter Nash free throw, HSU responded with seven straight points over the next two minutes to take back control of the game. The Cowboys led UTD, 23-18, after a Cameron Barnes layup with 8:19 remaining in the half and extended their lead to 33-26 on a three-pointer by Charles Sams just before the Comets finished the half with their flurry.

After the Comets opened the second half with five straight points and grabbed a 41-13 lead, HSU mounted a quick rally attempt, drawing within a point, 41-40, with 16:32 to play after a John Barnes three-pointer. UTD answered with three points by Kyle Schleigh and a three-pointer by Medell on its next three possessions to regain a five-point lead, 47-42, with 13:57 remaining. HSU again drew within a possession just with over 11 minutes to play before Dmitriy Chernikov banked in a three-pointer to beat the shot clock with 10:58 left, giving the Comets a 52-46 lead. The Cowboys would not get within a possession for the remainder of the game, drawing within four points five times before UTD ended the game on an 8-3 run.

Medell led five Comets in double figures with 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting, draining three three-pointers. Chernikov had 16 points, Schleigh finished with 15 points, Harvey had 13 points and Nash came off the bench for 10 points. Schleigh led UTD with eight rebounds while Nash has seven boards and a game-high five assists.

UTD shot 51.1 percent (24-of-47) from the field, hitting 8-of-14 three-pointers (57.1%), and was 22-of-29 (75.9%) from the foul line. The Comets out-rebounded HSU, 40-33.

For the Cowboys (now 19-9), Derrick Jefferson had a team-high five points while Barnes had 13 points and Titus Mims finished with12 points. HSU shot just 33.8 percent (23-of-68) from the floor, connecting on just 8-of-27 three-pointers (29.6%), and was 15-of-20 (75%) from the free-throw line.

Schleigh was named the Tournament Most Valuable Player, picking up All-Tournament Team honors for the second straight season. Schleigh averaged 21.0 points and 6.7 rebounds per game while shooting 53.5 percent from the field. He was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Chernikov and Medell. Also on the All-Tournament Team were HSU's Jefferson and Mims, Jordan Cannon of Texas-Tyler and Kevin Lewis of Louisiana College.

The Comets improved to 3-1 all-time in ASC title games, also winning the crown in 2005 and 2009. UTD lost in the title game in 2010.