Troy wins Sun Belt title, will play Duke in NCAA tournament

The Troy men's basketball team won the 2017 Sun Belt championship on Sunday afternoon, earning a berth in the NCAA tournament. It is the team's second tournament appearance, and its first since the 2003 season. The Trojans defeated the No. 4-seed Texas State 59-53 at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans (PHOTO/Chris Davis)
The Troy men's basketball team won the 2017 Sun Belt championship on Sunday afternoon, earning a berth in the NCAA tournament. It is the team's second tournament appearance, and its first since the 2003 season. The Trojans defeated the No. 4-seed Texas State 59-53 at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans (PHOTO/Chris Davis)
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Wesley Kirchhar

Staff Writer

Troy has punched its ticket to the big dance.

Troy defeated Texas State 59-53 for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, its first appearance since 2003 and second ever.

The Trojans (22-14, 11-8 Sun Belt), who entered the Sun Belt Conference Championship tournament as a six-seed, were led by sophomore Jordon Varnado’s 18 points and 12 rebounds. Junior Wesley Person had 16 in the game on 4-12 shooting. Person and Varnado combined for a perfect 14-14 shooting from the free throw line.

Following a win over Georgia State in the semifinal of the Sun Belt tournament. Troy advanced to the conference championship game for the first time since the 2010 season.

Troy rolled in to Sunday’s matchup on a five-game win streak with a title on the line, and never trailed after evening the score at 9-9 midway through the first half. It was a defensive battle from start to finish, as Troy shot 35 percent from the field, compared to 41.7 percent from Texas State.

Varnado hit a couple shots late, and he and Person both made their free throws in the final minute to ensure the six point victory.

Troy defeated the No. 11 seed App. State before topping the No. 3 seed Georgia Southern. Troy was the lowest seed in the semifinal round before knocking off No. 2 Georgia State and No. 4 Texas State.

Troy played all those games in the span of five days, winning each by an average of just over 14 points.

The Trojans will now face the No. 2-seed Duke Blue Devils on Friday, March 17. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:20 p.m. CT, with TBS televising the game.