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Lions head into conference tournament with championship bid on the line

Caleb Lay/Daily Star

RISING ABOVE THE COMPETITION - Southeastern's Moses Greenwood (center) rises up for a quick shot in the middle of the lane. Greenwood, a senior, is the Lions' leading scorer.

The Lions find themselves in a similar position when they start the Southland Conference basketball tournament on Thursday, March, 14 because they have another good shot at making the championship game and earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

After a rough 0-3 conference start, the Lions went 12-3 throughout the rest of conference play and clinched the third seed before the final game of the regular season. The Lions have also beat every team in the conference tournament except for the top seed Sam Houston State, at least once.

SLU wouldn't see Sam Houston until the championship contest if both teams manage to advance that far.

The first matchup where Southeastern will play the winner of the No. 6 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and No. 3 Central Arkansas on Thursday at 7:30 p.m won't be easy for the Lions though.

UCA is a team that beat Southeastern in the first matchup, 73-71 and then SLU got it's revenge later in the season with a 73-67 win. When breaking down the shots from both games, Southeastern shot a combined 44.6 percent from the field compared to UCA's 43.6 percent which was the difference of one made basket since both teams shot 101 field goals in the two contests.

The Lions did dominate the boards though, outrebounding Central Arkansas 72-49 in the two games. But UCA forced SLU into 40 turnovers in both contests, winning the turnover battle 28-40.

Southeastern beat Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 64-58 on the road largely thanks to senior Marlain Veal's impressive shooting from behind the arc. The senior guard made 7-of-12 3-pointers in the contest to lead his team to victory with 27 points.

Veal and his fellow senior Moses Greenwood will have to continue carrying the scoring load for the Lions with Greenwood averaging 18.1 points per Southland contest and Veal scoring 17 points per game during SLU's conference slate. The two were named first-team All-Southland Conference due to their ability to win games for the Lions.

The next two players behind Greenwood and Veal in scoring is Gonzalez (8.1 points in SLC play) and Von Julien (7.4 points in SLC play).

If Southeastern can win that first matchup, they'll take on Abilene Christian the next night who will be rested after earning the double-bye with the No. 2 seed. The Lions lost the first matchup with ACU when the Wildcats hit a three with two seconds left to lift them to a 75-72 victory.

Southeastern again got revenge on the road with a 75-66 win after dominating the Wildcats on the glass, outrebounding them 44-26. But ACU won out, beating their next four opponents to close out the season by an average margin of 16 points.

If SLU wins that contest then they would play in the championship for the second-straight year with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line.