Alcorn men need win to squeeze in

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 30, 2006

LORMAN &8212; Let the madness begin.

March Madness begins in earnest for Alcorn State tonight when the Braves entertain Texas Southern in a game that could decide the eighth and final team in the SWAC Tournament.

Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.

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&8220;It&8217;s gut check time for us,&8221; Alcorn coach Samuel West said. &8220;Those leaders have to step up.

Alcorn and Texas Southern enter the game with identical 6-10 records in SWAC play, but Alcorn won the first meeting between the two schools in early January.

An Alcorn win today would assure the Braves a spot in the tournament, by virtue of owning the tiebreaker over Texas Southern.

&8220;This time of year, this is what it&8217;s all about,&8221; West said. &8220;For us, it starts tomorrow night.&8221;

The road to the tournament is tougher for Texas Southern, which must beat Alcorn by at least nine points &8212; according to the SWAC&8217;s tiebreaker rules.

Then, if both teams are still tied after Saturday&8217;s finale (Alcorn hosts Prairie View and Texas Southern visits league leader Southern), Texas Southern would earn the final tourney bid.

Alcorn enters the game on a four-game losing skid, but the final two games are against Texas Southern and Prairie View &8212; the only two teams behind Alcorn in the standings.

Alcorn did not advance to the conference tournament in 2005 &045; a first for a program with numerous NCAA Tournament appearances.

&8220;Our backs are against the wall now, and we&8217;ve got to win our final two,&8221; Alcorn guard Delvin Thompson said after Saturday&8217;s loss to Southern. &8220;Whether we&8217;re eighth, seventh, sixth or whatever, we want to get in.&8221;

Alcorn has been plagued by the same problems all season &8212; putting the opponent on the foul line, turnovers and poor offensive execution.

&8220;The kids are playing hard, though,&8221; West said. &8220;They&8217;re playing with passion.&8221;