HOUSTON — Having already clinched the conference title Thursday, the Texas Southern men’s basketball team didn’t let up on the gas in the regular-season finale against Southern.
Instead, the Tigers lit up the scoreboard, making 59.2 percent of their shots in a 88-78 win Saturday at H&PE Arena.
The final result was the most points the Jaguars have allowed all year in conference play. SU came in leading the Southwestern Athletic Conference in scoring defense at just 58 points per game.
“I thought around the horn we did well enough, but I don’t think we played well enough physically to match their intensity tonight,” SU coach Roman Banks said. “We have to grow up overnight. We’ve got to get better inside physical play against these top teams in our league.”
TSU was led by Deverell Biggs, who scored 27 points. Madarious Gibbs added 15.
Southern (16-16, 13-5) finishes the regular season with the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament, which begins Tuesday at Houston’s Toyota Center.
Southern will play the No. 6 seed, Alabama A&M, at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.
The Jaguars were led by Adrian Rodgers, who scored 22 and Trelun Banks who had 17.
“They just outworked us tonight,” Rodgers said. “They had more energy and more fight. They were just the better team tonight.”
Texas Southern (19-12, 16-2) led 51-44 at halftime but used a 12-2 run to start the second half to pull away for its eighth straight victory.
Before coming to Texas, SU had not allowed more than 63 points a game. The Jaguars allowed 73 in Thursday night’s win against Prairie View and now 88 against TSU.
Southern got outscored 36-26 in the paint and allowed six 3-pointers.
“They can score pretty well,” Banks said. “I think they were zoned in pretty well and they had a lot of second chances to get shots when they did miss.”
Both teams shot lights out in the first half. TSU made 62.1 percent of its shots, with the Jaguars sinking 56.1 percent.
Banks led SU with 11 points at the half.
TSU jumped out to a 17-point lead in the second half, but Southern hung in there with a Rodgers 3-pointer drawing the Jaguars within 73-64 with nine minutes to go.
A Tre Lynch 3 again drew SU within nine, but a three-point play by Biggs expanded TSU’s lead back to 12, 81-69.
Forward Jared Sam did return from his ankle injury to grab four rebounds and score two points in 14 minutes.
“He played and made us better,” Banks said. “We need him going into the tournament with a big strong body and good hands.”
Southern hopes to have one more crack at Texas Southern in the conference championship game.
“I don’t know if we can look that far ahead,” Banks said. “We will just concentrate on that one game.”
Added Rodgers: “At this point, it’s win or go home. We will use these couple days to regroup and get back to the basics. We will work on the mistakes and we will be ready.”