From the Southwestern Athletic Conference:
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Texas Southern battled back from a 10-point halftime deficit and changed the flow of the game as they claimed its second win in NCAA history after defeating Mount St. Mary’s 60-52 Thursday night at Assembly Hall.
TSU would score the first two points after a pair of John Walker III free throws but Mount St. Mary’s answered with a three-pointer and led briefly until a three-pointer by Michael Weathers with 15:28 remaining. However, the Mountaineers answered with a three-pointer and wouldn’t relinquish the lead the entire first half despite a few challenges by the Tigers.
With four minutes remaining, TSU was down by three but the Mountaineers scored the next five points to lead 26-18 until Galen Alexander’s jumper with 2:39 left. After a timeout, Mount St. Mary’s pushed the lead to 28-20 off a putback and TSU missed its next three shots as the Mountaineers went coast-to-coast for a basket at the buzzer for a 30-20 halftime lead.
In the first half, the Mountaineers had plenty of time to execute its offense as TSU wasn’t running the floor like fans have been accustomed to seeing throughout the year. Head coach Johnny Jones made the necessary halftime adjustments and turned the heat up to open the second half. TSU extended its defense and it turned into instant offensive production as they went on an 11-0 run which was capped off by Jordan Gilliam’s three-pointer with 16:45 remaining.
TSU’s run would come to halt offensively but the defense kept the pressure on as the Mountaineers were held scoreless until two free throws by Deandre Thomas with 14:44 remaining as the game was tied at 31-all. The play sparked a 7-0 run by the Mount as TSU’s deficit grew to 38-31 with 12:37 left.
When TSU needed a spark, they turned to you know who – Justin Hopkins – as the grad student from Huntsville, Ala. hit a huge three-pointer followed by another jumper. The Mount missed a trey on the ensuing possession and Walker III hit an uncontested three-pointer from the corner to give TSU a 39-38 lead after the 8-0 run.
The Mount’s Nana Opoku answered with a layup to reclaim the lead but Hopkins came through again with a layup for the 41-40 lead. After a Mount St. Mary’s turnover, Hopkins attempted to keep his hot hand going but his shot was blocked. However, Yahuza Rasas was there to clean up and scored on the putback for a 43-40 lead.
Damian Qui Chong hit a pair of free throws to keep the Mount down 43-42 but Gilliam made his name known to the country with a huge three-pointer for a 46-42 cushion.
TSU from that point relied on its defense and made timely plays when needed. With 2:11 left and TSU up by two, the Tigers missed a three-pointer but hit the glass with two huge offensive rebounds.
The third time was the charm as Nicholas came off the block and dunked home the putback for a 54-50 lead. Qui Chong missed the ensuing three-point attempt and TSU made them pay from the foul line as they hit 6-of-8 to seal the school’s second tournament win in NCAA history.
Walker III led the way with 19 points and nine rebounds while Gilliam added 12 points with four boards. Nicholas grabbed seven rebounds with six points while Hopkins scored eight points.
TSU moves on to play top-seeded Michigan on Saturday afternoon in a 2 p.m. CST tip-off at Mackey Arena on the Purdue campus in West Lafayette, Ind.