Southern's shot at a regular-season championship has ended.
In a 90-88 loss to Texas Southern on Thursday at the F.G. Clark Activity Center, Southern (14-16, 10-7) failed to stay in contention for the Southwestern Athletic Conference title with a seventh loss.
Southern, Texas Southern and Prairie View, which the Jaguars will host to end the regular season on Saturday, sat in a three-way tie for third place at 10-6 before Thursday. Southern's loss is expected to drop Southern to fourth or fifth in the conference.
First-place Grambling State (16-14, 12-5), which defeated Alabama A&M on Thursday, must win Saturday at Alabama State to clinch the regular-season championship. Because of an NCAA Academic Progress Report sanction, Grambling is ineligible to compete in the postseason, which includes next week's SWAC tournament.
The Jaguars (14-16, 10-7 SWAC) fell in four of their first five conference games before winning eight of the next 10 games through the heart of their conference schedule, good enough to move into second place before Saturday's loss at Alcorn State.
For Southern to win any title this season, it must be through the conference tournament.
“We all want a ring," senior forward Jared Sam said Wednesday. "We all want to win. So we’ll do whatever we need to win to win it.”
Southern backup forward Mubashar Ali and Texas Southern forward Trayvon Reed were assessed Flagrant 2 fouls in Thursday’s first half, prompting immediate ejection, for swinging and connecting on punches. Ali and Reed, who is tied with Southern’s Jared Sam as the SWAC’s leading rebounder (9.0 per game), are suspended for Saturday’s regular-season finales.
HEATED! Texas Southern's Trayvon Reed strikes Southern's Mubashar Ali after an intense verbal exchange between the two. Both players were ejected from the game at the FG Clark Center. @WAFB @SouthernUsports @theswac pic.twitter.com/PTy0vsP3WG— Jacques Doucet (@JacquesDoucet) March 2, 2018
Without Reed, Texas Southern lacked an interior presence against Sam, so the Tigers shifted into a 2-3 zone. It forced Southern to take longer shots and clogged Sam’s workspace near the rim.
Sam had 25 points and 15 rebounds, his 14th double-double. Guards Chris Thomas and Eddie Reese added 15 and 14 points, respectively. Aaron Ray and Sidney Umude, Southern’s most trusted backups, scored 14 apiece. Reese's 15 assists set a new career high.
Texas Southern guard Demontrae Jefferson scored 36 points, his fifth consecutive game with 22 or more points. Forward Donte Clark, the SWAC’s third-leading scorer at more than 17 points per game, added most of his 28 points in the second half.