NEW ORLEANS,La. (WBKO) -- Chastity Gooch had 26 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots, and Western Kentucky used a big closing run to beat Arkansas State 61-60 in the final of the Sun Belt women's tournament on Saturday night.
The second-seeded Lady Toppers, who lost to the top-seeded Red Wolves in both of their regular-season meetings, scored 18 of the last 22 points of the game. They trailed from the 11:00 mark of the first half until going ahead 59-58 on Bianca McGee's 3-pointer with 2:30 left.
Arkansas State went back up on Carlisha Wyatt's layup with 1:39 left, but Kendall Noble responded with a layup at the 1:21 mark. The Red Wolves' Aundrea Gamble missed a contested shot inside in the final seconds.
Noble had 12 points for Western Kentucky (24-8), which won the Sun Belt tournament for the seventh time. McGee had eight of her 10 points in the last five minutes.
Gamble, the conference player of the year, had 22 points for Arkansas State (22-11), which was trying to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time.
Western Kentucky appeared to be in big trouble when Gooch picked up her fourth foul with 11:21 left. The Lady Toppers were facing a 12-point deficit, but Gooch played the rest of the way, scoring eight points, including a 3-pointer right after Arkansas State took its largest lead at 49-35.
Western Kentucky trailed by nine with 5:00 left when McGee hit a 3 on one possession and a buzzer-beating 17-footer the next time down the court to make it 58-54. Gooch followed with a layup.
Gamble, the best player on the floor for most of the game, was scoreless over the final seven minutes.
Arkansas State went ahead with a 16-3 run midway through the first half, turning a 14-10 deficit into a 26-17 lead. Gamble had a hand in 10 of those points, hitting three straight shots and collecting two assists, including a perfect bounce pass to Carlisha Wyatt for a layup.
Arkansas State scored 10 of the first 12 points in the second half to go ahead 47-33. Gamble capped the spurt with another pinpoint pass to Carlisha Wyatt for a layup.
Both teams made 25 of 61 shots. The difference was Western Kentucky's ability to hit them down the stretch. Arkansas State also struggled to handle Western Kentucky's pressure defense down the stretch, making 14 turnovers to the Lady Toppers' seven.