by Pedro Romero Jr.
The Texas Southern Tigers lost to the Southern University Jaguars 87-77 in Senior Night on Saturday, seeing their 11-game winning streak end within the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
In addition, the result snapped the Tigers’ own 5-game winning streak against Southern. The last time they lost to the Baton Rouge-based team came in the semifinals of the 2016 SWAC Tournament by a score of 81-73.
“I just wanted to say my disappointment about tonight,” Tigers coach Johnny Jones said after the game. “It’s Senior Night, you certainly wanted to make sure the seniors finish up their last regular season game here at home in fine fashion. Unfortunately for us, that didn’t happen.”
Among the few bright spots for the Tigers was center Trayvon Reed, whose 24 points, eight rebounds, and one block led the team for the game. It was his best performance since coming back from a stress fracture injury that happened in early January.
“Coach had me on a time restriction with my minutes. I know I just had to ease my way back,” Reed said as he recounted on his injury. “But it was frustrating getting the minutes I was getting. But when he let me play, I was able to just produce and run through it.”
Forward Jeremy Combs, the reigning SWAC Player of the Week, posted 14 points on 3-of-7 shooting, six rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
Rounding out the rest of the squad, guard John Jones scored 12 points while also amassing two rebounds, an assist, and a steal.
For Southern, forward Richard Lee scored 30 points by way of nine made shots from beyond the arc. Additionally, junior forward Osa Wilson notched a double-double by making 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Southern burst out of the gate by going on an 8-0 run, surprising the home team and their fans. To make matters worse, Texas Southern underwent a scoring drought at the same time where they missed their first three shots in the span of five minutes until forward Eden Ewing banked in a 3-pointer to finally put the team on the board.
Sensing blood, Southern continued pounding on the Tigers as their initial run extended to 11-3 by the 15:15 mark. As a whole, during the stretch, Southern shot for 6 of 11 across the field, while Texas Southern made 4 of their 13 shots, giving up the former the lead by score of 15-9 at the 12:11 mark.
Even so, Texas Southern withstood the Jaguars’ heavy punches and managed to pull close to tie the game as it reached the half, going within three points of Southern thanks to a Shawn Olden 3-pointer at the 10:46 mark, which made it a 17-14 score.
However, Southern immediately responded with a 3-pointer of their own to restore their lead and stop any chance of a possible comeback.
It was a sign of things of to come later on as the Tigers would fail to close out both from the paint and the 3-point line, subsequently giving the Jaguars plenty of second-chance opportunities.
Both teams were relatively equal throughout the half, but the 3-point shooting proved to be the difference in the scoring margin. Southern made 53 percent of their long-distance shots (8-of-15 shooting), whereas the Tigers made 37.5 percent of theirs (3-of-8 shooting).
Moreover, the Tigers dominated the boards over the Jaguars, in the first half grabbing 20 in total compared to the visitors’ 10.
Elsewhere, Combs played the first half unlike his past performances, making only six points to his name. On the bright side, he did put up three rebounds and four assists up until the intermission.
But it looked like his struggles would soon continue as his drives at the start of the second half were repeatedly thwarted by the Jaguar players who stood ready on the elbow to swipe the ball away from his hands.
Regardless, Texas Southern mounted another comeback bid, cutting the Jaguars’ lead down to five at the 16:56 mark for a 49-44 score. In the midst of this, Southern’s Sidney Umude was called for his fifth foul of the game, fouling him out entirely and eliminating his contribution to the team as one of their key offensive weapons.
The momentum was shifting towards Texas Southern. At the 16:12 mark, they were within four of the Jaguars on a Trayvon Reed layup to make it 50-46.
Southern couldn’t be denied though. Every score by the Tigers was replied by a basket of their own. This went on for the majority of the half. Neither team was able to pull away from the other. For most of the second half, both teams were dead even in their point total.
This all came to ahead at the 6:07 mark when Texas Southern cut their deficit to only one point of tying Southern, the score being 69-68 Jaguars.
But then, Southern pulled away late while on the back of an 18-8 run to seal the game and end Texas Southern’s winning streak.
This was personified in a play at the 4-minute mark where Southern’s Lee made a key 3-point shot after one of Texas Southern’s defenders was hit with making split-second decision between obstructing the driving player or covering the wing player’s shot.
Furthermore, the Tigers’ effort was outclassed by the Jaguars, which was exemplified by the latter’s 34 rebounds over the hosting team’s seven.
“We got our butts kicked tonight,” coach Jones said. “We have to accept that and get ready to play on Tuesday.”
With the regular season over, the second-seeded Texas Southern Tigers now look ahead to the SWAC Tournament, where they again face the number seventh-seed Southern Jaguars on Mar. 12 in the first round.
“Nineteen wins. Great. Regular season—but that’s behind us now,” John Jones Jr. TSU’s guard said over the conclusion of the season. “Hopefully we get these next three games, play as hard as we can, and go dance in the tournament.”