The third-seed and host Chicago State Cougars will battle the fourth-seed Houston Baptist Huskies in the Great West Tournament Championship game at the Jones Convocation Center.
The winner on Saturday receives an automatic bid to the Collegeinsider.com Tournament.
Chicago State had just nine wins during the regular season but earned a 63-55 upset victory against top-seed Texas-Pan American in the semifinal round on Friday night. The win was actually the second straight for the Cougars who just topped Houston Baptist in the regular-season finale last Saturday.
A pair of free throws with two seconds left in regulation were the difference for the Huskies as they knocked off top-seed NJIT in the semifinals. The win was the 10th in the last 12 games for the Huskies who are just 14-16 overall. Houston Baptist is returning to the title game for the first time since its appearance in the inaugural season in 2010.
Chicago State also collected a win against the Huskies in a meeting at the Jones Convocation Center on Jan. 14 to sweep the season series and take a 7-4 advantage all-time against the Huskies.
Art Bernardi had a fantastic final 20 seconds for the Huskies as he blocked a shot from Chris Flores with 13 ticks remaining and then got fouled on a final shot attempt to go to the line for the winning free throws. Bernardi had game- highs in points (18) and rebounds (8) in the win.
The Huskies are a fairly mediocre offensive squad. They are scoring just 64.1 points per game, while shooting at a 41.6 percent clip from the field, among the 100 worst marks in the country. Bernardi (14.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg) is a solid performer in the frontcourt and has been carrying the Huskies all season. The 6-foot-9 forward had posted a double-double in each of the last two games and has had eight total on the campaign. With Tyler Russell (11.4 ppg) out since earlier in the season the Huskies are without a real second option as reserve Rob Lewis (8.0 ppg) is the next best scorer.
A balanced attack from the Cougars carried them over Texas-Pan American on Friday. Nate Duhon netted 13 points as the only player in double figures but five others had at least eight points, including Matt Ross who also ripped down 10 boards.
Chicago State has not been a particularly strong offensive team this season either. The Cougars are scoring only 64.7 points per game and shooting at a 40.1 percent rate from the field. The Cougars couple their lackluster offensive efforts by allowing opponents to put in 68.9 points per game and net 44.4 percent from he floor. Balance isn't something new for the squad as Quinton Pippen (10.4 ppg) enters the contest as the only player averaging in double figures, although Ross (9.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Jamere Dismukes (9.3 ppg) are among four others putting in at least 7.7 points per game.