Jamel Waters swished an 18-foot jumper with 0.5 seconds left to give Alabama State a 56-54 victory against Southern on Monday night in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
The dramatic finish was reminiscent of one that took place when the Hornets beat the Jaguars 63-59 four weeks earlier in Montgomery. The victory enabled ASU (16-7 overall) to stay tied with Texas Southern for first place in the Southwestern Athletic Conference with 12-4 records.
Southern (14-15, 11-4) hosts Alcorn State in its home finale Saturday.
“It was a tough ballgame,” Hornets coach Lewis Jackson said. “We knew coming in that it was going to be a tough, just like it was in Montgomery. We just told our players to stay close. We’re not going to do everything right, but stay positive and keep working to make plays — and we did that well enough to win.”
ASU finished the game on a 9-2 run and outscored Southern 29-23 in the second half.
The Jaguars had the ball with the score tied and less than a minute to play. They couldn’t get a good look, and Christopher Hyder launched a jumper that missed with 51 seconds left.
The Hornets rebounded and, after a timeout, DeMarcus Robinson missed a jumper, but the rebound went out of bounds off Southern. With the shot clock off, Waters dribbled the clock down and made his jumper over Hyder just before the buzzer.
The officials looked at television replays and put half a second on the clock. The Jaguars twice had to call a timeout because it couldn’t get the ball in bounds. Finally, Trelun Banks couldn’t handle Joell Hopkins’ pass in the backcourt as the final buzzer sounded.
“At the end of the day, we weren’t as good offensively in the second half,” Southern coach Roman Banks said. “I thought we were good enough defensively.”
Waters led ASU with 14 points, and Wendell Lewis had 10. Banks was the only Jaguars player in double figures, scoring 11 (but none in the second half).
Southern played its first game without starting forward Jared Sam, who’s expected to miss two weeks with a sprained right ankle suffered in a 72-63 victory against Alabama A&M on Saturday.
In the absence of Sam, who’s averaging 5.5 points and a team-high 5.5 rebounds, Banks decided to start his biggest lineup. He started Franks Snow and Keith Davis, both of whom at 6-foot-9 are an inch taller than Sam and are the tallest players on the team.
Southern led by four at halftime, but Brown made two free throws and Robinson hit a 3-pointer to give ASU a brief lead at the start of the second half.
Adrian Rodgers answered with a 3-pointer, and Snow and Davis followed with consecutive layups to give the Jaguars a 38-32 lead.
The Hornets got within two points twice and one point twice in the next several minutes but couldn’t pull even.
After they got within one the second time, Davis made a free throw and Tre Lynch scored on a drive.
Page made a free throw and Snow scored on a put-back to give the Jaguars a 52-47 lead with four minutes remaining. Page made another free throw, Brandon Graham dunked and Lewis made a layup to tie the score with 2:22 left.
“They made two key buckets in transition late,” Roman Banks said. “We ran a couple of good sets and threw the ball inside, but we didn’t get anything out of it and they capitalized on the other end.”
Snow’s five-footer broke the tie before Waters re-tied it with two free throws with 1:29 left.
ASU, which got off to a slow start and trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half of the first meeting, started much better this time.
Bobby Brown made a jumper from the top of the key and a 3-pointer as the Hornets jumped to a 9-4 lead, but the Jaguars pulled even at 11 when Lynch made a 3-pointer.
The score was tied twice more before Lewis’ basket from the lane gave ASU a 22-20 lead. Maurice Strong’s free throw added to the lead before four points by Hyder and two from Davis gave Southern a 26-23 lead.
Banks’ three-point play and basket from the lane helped the Jaguars increase the lead to 31-27 at halftime. He led all scorers with 11 first-half points.
ASU out-rebounded Southern 23-17, but the Jaguars had the edge in points in the paint (14-6).
The Hornets made just one field goal during the final eight minutes of the half.