For most of the game, it looked like Southern and Texas Southern were destined for a photo finish Monday night.
But the number of twists and turns in the final moments would have been almost impossible to predict.
In a game that was tied 10 times, there were four dramatic possessions in the final 10 seconds.
In the end, Chris Thomas made a tie-breaking free throw with 0.7 seconds left, and two replay reviews went the Tigers way in the final second as they won 59-58 victory in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
“We knew it was going to be a battle,” said TSU coach Mike Davis, whose team scored six points in the final 3.8 seconds to defeat Kansas State by two points last month.
This victory improved the Tigers to 5-10 and 2-0. The Jaguars, 4-12 and 1-1, visit Grambling on Saturday.
“We knew it would go down to the end,” Southern coach Roman Banks said. “I thought we made enough plays to win, but we didn’t do it on the scoreboard.”
The score was tied and the Tigers were playing for the last shot when Christopher Hyder stole the ball from Deverell Biggs. Hyder drove toward the basket as the game clock ticked under five seconds.
Madarious Gibbs chased down Hyder to block his layup, Thomas rebounded and was bumped by Jared Sam and a foul was called as the final buzzer sounded.
“Great job of staying with it,” Davis said of Gibbs’ play.
Banks said he thought Gibbs goal-tended Hyder’s layup and called Sam’s contact with Thomas “incidental.”
After reviewing a replay, the officials ruled that the foul came with 0.7 seconds left. Thomas made the first free throw and intentionally missed the second and the Jaguars rebounded and called timeout.
Southern inbounded with 0.5 seconds left with a long pass to Adrian Rodgers, who caught the ball between two defenders, turned and made a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded again, and the Jaguars celebrated. But another replay review showed Rodgers released the ball a split second after the buzzer.
“We were pretty anxious just waiting to see if they were going to make the right call,” Sam said. “Our emotions just went up and down. It was a very good game against a good team. We just came up short.”
Biggs was the only Tiger to score in double figures, finishing with a game-high 20 points. Trelun Banks led Southern with 16 points, Keith Davis scored 13 and Rodgers 11.
The score was tied at 26 at halftime and five more times early in the second half before Jason Carter’s 3-pointer gave TSU a 44-41 lead with 9:24 left.
Davis scored 12 consecutive Southern points as the Jaguars stayed close. His second consecutive hook shot got the deficit to two before Biggs made two free throws.
Rodgers’ jumper cut it two, but Nick Shepherd answered with a tip-in for the Tigers. Rodgers scored on a put-back, but David Blanks answered with two free throws.
Banks’ 3-pointer and a free throw by Cameron Monroe created the second-to-last tie. Hyder scored on a drive, and Thomas made one of two free throws. After Gibbs made a layup to put TSU up by one, Banks made one of two free throws to forge the final tie with 28 seconds left.
The game didn’t start as though it would be so closely contested.
The Jaguars scored the first nine points as the Tigers missed their first nine shots and didn’t score until the game was six minutes old.
“We were too calm at the start,” Davis said. “We didn’t look excited to be playing. Then we started to move the ball.”
Gibbs’ layup ended TSU’s drought, but five points by Banks and Sam’s put-back gave Southern a 16-4 lead.
Biggs brought life to the Tigers offense, making three baskets as they pulled even at 20.
Tre Lynch broke the tie and ended a nearly five-minute scoring drought for the Jaguars by making a 3-pointer.
Biggs scored TSU’s last six points of the half, and Davis made a free throw and Joell Hopkins scored on a tip-in for Southern as the half ended in a 26-26 tie.
“They’re a very good team,” coach Banks said of TSU. “In basketball, 9-0 isn’t much of a lead. We knew they would make a run.”
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.