Tracy Foster scored 23 points Saturday as Alabama Birmingham upset top-seeded Western Kentucky, 72-60, in the championship game of the Sun Belt Conference tournament at Bowling Green, Ky., enabling the Blazers to gain the first automatic bid to the 1986-87 NCAA tournament.
Foster, a senior guard from Fort Wayne, Ind., who transferred from Indiana University as a freshman, was 9 for 13 from the floor--including 3 for 4 from three-point range--and made both his free throws. He was named the tournament's most valuable player.
The tournament championship was the fourth for the Blazers, who will be making their seventh straight trip to the NCAA tourney. Their record is 21-10. Western Kentucky dropped to 27-8.
Gene Bartow, coach of the Blazers, has been to the Final Four twice, with Memphis State in 1972-73 and with UCLA in 1975-76.
"We're elated, but we feel very fortunate in winning," Bartow said. "I thought all along that Western Kentucky was one of the great teams in America."
Alabama Birmingham, which trailed, 33-32, at halftime, took the lead for good, 39-37, on a basket by forward Eddie Collins three minutes into the second half.
Purdue 87, Ohio State 73--Troy Lewis scored 31 points as the No. 6-ranked Boilermakers won their seventh straight game and moved into a tie for the Big Ten lead with Indiana at West Lafayette, Ind.
Purdue (23-3, 14-2) finishes at Michigan and Michigan State. Second-ranked Indiana faces No. 13 Illinois today at Champaign, Ill., and finishes at home against Ohio State (18-11, 9-8).
Ohio State pulled within 71-69 of Purdue on three-point shots by Jay Burson and Dennis Hopson, who led the Buckeyes with 31 points.
But Lewis hit two free throws with 2:55 remaining to start a 13-point streak that gave the Boilermakers an 84-69 advantage with 47 seconds remaining.
Lewis credited a pep talk he gave himself.
"I was taking a shower this morning and told myself 'You aren't shooting well,' " Lewis said. "I told myself to concentrate, follow through, do all the things you've been taught to do."
Iowa 95, Michigan 85--Jeff Moe scored 22 points, including five three-pointers, and Roy Marble scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half for the No. 8 Hawkeyes at Iowa City, Iowa.
Iowa improved to 25-4 and 12-4. Michigan, which had beaten Iowa eight straight times, fell to 18-10 and 9-7.
Gary Grant led Michigan with 28 points, followed by Garde Thomson with 23.
Georgetown 90, Providence 79--Reggie Williams, in the final home game of his college career, had 24 points and 8 rebounds to lead the No. 8 Hoyas past the No. 20 Friars in a Big East game at Landover, Md.
"I've been thinking about this game since the season started," Williams said. "I wanted to go out in style and with a win."
It was the eighth straight win for the Hoyas, who improved to 23-4 overall and 12-4 in the Big East, tying them with Pitt and Syracuse for the Big East regular season title. The Big East tournament starts Thursday.
The Friars, who got 21 points from Billy Donovan and 18 from Ernie Lewis, fell to 19-7 and 9-6.
"Their defense is the best in the league, primarily because of the way they attack the ball," Providence Coach Rick Pitino said of Georgetown. "They're relentless."
St. John's 76, Pitt 74--Willie Glass hit a 10-foot fall-away jumper with six seconds left to carry the Redmen to victory at New York, depriving the No. 9 Panthers of an undisputed Big East title.
Pitt is 23-6 and 12-4, St. John's 20-7 and 10-6.
Pitt's Mike Goodson took a desperation shot from halfcourt with two seconds left that fell short. St. John's John Hempel caught the missed shot but was called for traveling and one second was put back on the clock. Pitt's Rod Brookin missed a long jumper as the buzzer sounded, and St. John's had the victory.
Mark Jackson led the Redmen, who snapped a two-game losing streak, with 26 points. Shelton Jones added 22 points and 10 rebounds and Glass had 18 points.
Brookin scored 22 points for Pitt. Jerome Lane, the nation's leading rebounder at 13.7 per game, finished with 19 points and 18 rebounds for Pitt.
Syracuse 87, Boston College 63--Rony Seikaly scored 18 points and Sherman Douglas added 16 for the Orangemen who made it a romp after leading 37-28 at halftime at Syracuse, N.Y.
Syracuse is 24-5 and 12-4, Boston College 10-17 and 3-13.
Dana Barros had a game-high 21 points for Boston College.
Pennsylvania 78, Yale 74--The Quakers became the second team to automatically qualify for the NCAA tournament by clinching the Ivy League title at New Haven, Conn.
Guard Perry Cromwell scored 30 points to lead Penn (13-12, 10-4). Paul Maley had 31 points and 16 rebounds for Yale (14-12, 7-7)
Duke 65, Clemson 59--Tommy Amaker hit a jumper with 1:15 left and the No. 17 Blue Devils made six straight free throws in the final 43 seconds to hold off the No. 13 Tigers in an Atlantic Coast Conference game at Durham, N.C.