Sometimes, good stories don’t always have a happy ending.
One group of guys can fight through various tribulations in the span of a grueling season, but their will to fight can eventually dissolve if the challenge becomes too great to overcome. Regardless of the humbling result, their fans can take in and appreciate the ride they experienced because thanks to them, they were able to live those wonderful events from their deep postseason run.
This metaphorical analogy played itself out as the Tigers of Texas Southern fell to the Phoenix of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay 87-86 in overtime on the night of April 2, eliminating them from the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.
“Hats go off to Green Bay,” head coach Johnny Jones said as he started his post-game press conference. “They are a very good basketball team that won a hard-fought battle. They played well at the right time of the game and they were able to hit the crucial shot in overtime.”
Jeremy Combs, who was named as an AP All-America Honorable Mention earlier in the day, led the way with 21 points on 10 of 16 shooting, eight rebounds, two blocked shots, and one steal. Coach Jones sent some words of praise to his star forward for his contribution to the team after the game.
“He really did a great job of helping his basketball team in every way that he could,” coach Jones said. “He also did a tremendous job on the road through non-conference play which then put him in the position to win the SWAC Player of the Year award. He really impacted the team in a variety of aspects such as his leadership.”
Tyrik Armstrong chipped in with a team-high 23 points, six assists, and seven steals in the game. Devocio Butler generated 19 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one blocked shot. Eden Ewing finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.
Green Bay saw Sandy Cohen III score 23 points, make eight rebounds, commit seven assists, block two shots, and force one steal, whereas Trevian Bell scored 21, made five rebounds, dished out two assists, and blocked three shots as well.
The hosting Phoenix won the game with 1.5 seconds left on the clock after Cohen successfully made a mid-range jump shot from near the free throw line. TSU’s Butler was there to contest it, but his effort fell short as the ball still went in for the home team, prompting coach Jones to call a timeout and draw up one final play.
And in that final play, the ball was laid out to guard John Jones for a heave from their own half, but it went far wide as it hit nothing but air.
But just prior to that, with eight seconds remaining in the game, the Tigers momentarily took the lead for an 86-85 score after a missed shot by Divonte Lumpkin allowed Combs to hastily make a layup with a pair of Green Bay players trailing behind him looking to block the shot.
However, none of this would have been possible had it not been for the visiting team’s exhibition of sheer tenacity at the end of regulation.
After Green Bay’s P.J. Pipes missed a 1-for-1 free throw, a play was orchestrated that saw Armstrong make a bounce pass in the paint to Combs for a layup resulted in a tie game at 76 apiece with seven seconds remaining. Immediately after, the Phoenix ran to the other side of the court to surprise the Tigers, attempt the layup, and steal the game all in high-speed succession. Fortunately, one of the Tiger players went up at the same time as the shooter and contested the shot which missed the net, forcing overtime in front of the 2,269-strong crowd.
This happened at a time where the home team lead for virtually the entire game (39 minutes and 43 seconds). That fact didn’t dismay the Tigers, for their experience on the road—they won 13 true road games at this point—allowed them to maintain their composure for the entirety of the game.
Despite shooting below 40 percent in the first half, the Tigers improved their stroke by double figures to 50 percent in the second, giving them a chance to tie the game which they ultimately did. Elsewhere, TSU was outrebounded by Green Bay by a 46-39 margin with the majority of them coming on the defensive side of the court (31-21). And even though both teams shot an equal amount of three-pointers for the game, it was the Tigers that were greater than the Phoenix in the free throw department by making 57 percent of their attempts (12 of 21) compared to the latter’s 27 percent (3 of 11).
With this result, seven members of the Tigers roster leave for graduation. The list includes Jeremy Combs, Jalyn Patterson, Devocio Butler, Trayvon Reed, Eden Ewing, Derrick Bruce, and Shawn Olden. They bow out after logging 24 wins for the season, the most for Texas Southern since they became a Division I school in 1977. Coach Jones expressed his appreciation to the players who each played a part in making this past season a legendary one.
“On our side,” coach Jones began as he talked about his team’s resiliency, “I couldn’t be any prouder of these group of guys. They came together through adversity and left it all out there yet again. I will always cherish this group and the accomplishment of setting the school record for wins in a season is a great feat!”
Of course, coach Jones wasn’t going to leave the fans empty-handed.
“We especially appreciate our students and faculty who put together the watch party tonight in the game room on campus as well as those who watched the live stream throughout Tiger Nation. Thank you for your support this season!”