DENTON, Texas (AP) Tiras Wade scored 21 of his 30 points in the second half and Chris Cameron hit three timely 3-pointers, carrying Louisiana-Lafayette past Denver 88-69 Tuesday night in the finals of the Sun Belt tournament and putting the Ragin' Cajuns into the NCAA tournament for a second straight year.
The 6-foot-11 Cameron broke a halftime tie with a 3-pointer and Louisiana-Lafayette (20-10) controlled the game the rest of the way. Wade had stretches where he took over and hit several jumpers that preserved a 10-point lead.
Denver (20-10) made a last push for its first-ever berth into the NCAA Division I tournament, getting within 70-63 with 5:28 left. But the Ragin' Cajuns closed with a 18-6 run, with Wade hitting six foul shots down the stretch.
Wade, a junior who sat out last season after transferring from East Tennessee State, scored a tournament-record 82 points and was named the most outstanding player. Cameron and another teammate, Dwayne Mitchell, were chosen to the all-tournament team. Mitchell had 18 points and eight rebounds, while Cameron's only points came on the long balls.
Orien Greene added 14 points, 11 rebounds and six steals for Louisiana-Lafayette, and Brian Hamilton had 12 points.
The Ragin' Cajuns last made the NCAAs in consecutive years in 1982-83, when the school was known as University of Southwestern Louisiana. Cameron and Hamilton are the only returning starters from last year's squad; even the coach is different as Robert Lee was promoted to replace Jessie Evans, who went to San Francisco.
Denver - a Division I school from 1904-79, then again since 1999 after stints in NAIA and Division II - had beaten Louisiana-Lafayette twice this season and ended the Cajuns' streak of three straight division titles.
Rodney Billups led Denver with 16 points but had just three assists, half his season average. Yemi Nicholson had 14 points and nine rebounds and Erik Benzel scored 15.
Louisiana-Lafayette trailed by seven in the opening minutes, then Cameron tied it at 23 on a 3-pointer. Wade followed with another 3, but soon after picked up his third foul and went to the bench for the final 4 minutes of the half.
The Ragin' Cajuns sealed their fourth straight 20-win season, fifth Sun Belt tournament title and fourth straight postseason bid (including NIT selections in 2002 and '03).