HOUSTON — As Demontrae Jefferson drove to the basket with 15 seconds remaining in Texas Southern’s 78-66 win over Southern on Monday night, he was fouled hard by Chris Thomas.
The foul led to a screaming and shoving match that saw Jefferson and Thomas ejected.
For Southern, the damage had already been done.
Jefferson combined with fellow guard Derrick Bruce to make 13 3-pointers and score 53 of the Tigers’ 78 points.
When TSU’s two guards weren’t lighting up the scoreboard, 7-foot-2 center Trayvon Reed was wreaking havoc on defense, blocking nine shots and grabbing 11 rebounds.
Southern leading scorer Jared Sam finished with a team-high 16 points, but was just 5 of 17 from the floor in 35 minutes.
The Jaguars hope that will change as they look for their first SWAC win against Prairie View at 8 p.m. Wednesday. The Panthers beat Alcorn State 76-64 in their opener Monday.
“(Monday) was a tough loss, but we can’t put our head down because the next one comes too quick,” first-year Southern coach Morris Scott said. “On the road it’s always tough. We just hope we can get one of these two games. Hopefully we can get in the win column and go home.”
To do that, Southern will need to get more production from its guards.
The Jaguars’ three starting guards — Thomas, LaQuentin Collins and Jamar Sandifer — combined to make just four shots from the field in 68 total minutes.
Eddie Reese came off the bench to score 11, but he made just 3 of 11 shots.
“We have to do a better job,” Scott said. “We just need to find a way to get it done.”
Southern was picked to finish second behind TSU in the preseason SWAC poll, while Prairie View was picked to finish fifth. The Panthers beat Southern 70-63 last March in Prairie View, while Southern won in Baton Rouge 86-72.
JAGUARS TRY TO KEEP THINGS ROLLING AT PRAIRIE VIEW: There was a strange noise coming from the visiting locker room at Texas Southern on Monday night. It was a sound the Jaguars hadn’t heard in nearly two months.
“One of my teammates said, ‘Coach (Sandy Pugh), ‘I’ve haven’t seen you celebrate like this in a while,’ ” Southern senior Briana Green said after Monday’s 67-57 upset of Southwestern Athletic Conference defending champion Texas Southern.
“To see coach celebrate like that is always a good feeling. It’s a huge confidence builder for us.”
After trailing at halftime, Southern came out with an extra burst of energy in the second half to wear down TSU on its home court.
That led to a pretty pumped-up celebration after.
Now, the Jaguars (2-8, 1-0) hope to build off that momentum on the final leg of their Texas SWAC tour when they face off against Prairie View at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday. The Panthers (2-10, 0-1) lost to Alcorn 73-72 in their conference opener Monday.
The Jaguars came into SWAC play having lost eight straight nonconference games, but Pugh knew the tough early matchups would pay off down the stretch.
“We played that schedule to prep for our conference,” Pugh said. “There is nobody in our conference like Oklahoma State or South Florida or Auburn. So if you can compete with those guys at a high level, there is no one in this conference that can stop you.
“I’ve been telling my team all year, we are a tough matchup due to our versatility and athleticism and things we are able to do from different areas of the court.”
Southern is led by Green (15 points, six rebounds per game) and Samantha Duncan (12 points). Both played pivotal roles in the Jaguars’ comeback Monday.
“At halftime, we were still in the game. We just had to make our shots,” Duncan said. “I knew I could do better and I stepped up and made some shots and we got the W.”