HOUSTON — March Madness is officially underway at the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament.
No. 4 seed Southern roared to a 24-point first-half lead, watched top-seeded Texas Southern storm back to grab the lead early in the second half, then regrouped for an 81-73 victory in the semifinals Friday night in the Toyota Center.
The Jaguars (21-12) will meet third-seeded Jackson State, which defeated No. 7 Mississippi Valley State 74-68, in the championship game at 5:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU). The winner advances to the NCAA tournament.
Southern and Jackson State split during the regular season. The Jaguars won 74-66 on Jan. 11 in the F.G. Clark Activity Center, and the Tigers won 81-80 on Feb. 8 in Jackson, Mississippi.
Texas Southern, which lost to Southern for the second time in nine days after losing just one other game to a SWAC opponent all season, finished 18-13.
Trelun Banks led the Jaguars with 19 points, Adrian Rodgers scored 16, Christopher Hyder had 14 and Jared Sam and Shawn Prudhomme had 13 each.
Malcolm Riley led the Tigers with 24, Chris Thomas scored 15 and David Blanks had 12. Derrick Griffin, the SWAC Player of the Year, was held to nine points by Southern’s defense and his own foul trouble.
TSU, which fell behind 25-4 to start the game, used a blistering second-half start to wipe out Southern’s 12-point halftime lead.
Riley made four 3-pointers during the first 5:05, the last of which gave the Tigers a 50-49 lead.
The Jaguars regained their composure, and the lead, as Hyder scored on a drive and a putback to start a 12-2 run that gave them a 61-52 lead.
Blanks scored on a drive for TSU, but Banks scored on a drive and Prudhomme made a baseline jumper to push the lead to 11.
Blanks’ steal and layup and two free throws by Griffin cut the lead to seven before Prudhomme answered with a 3-pointer.
Southern came out with a flurry from the opening tip just as it did in an 83-63 win against Alabama State on Thursday.
Banks scored the Jaguars’ first 10 points and Rodgers followed with a 3-pointer, a three-point play, a pair of free throws and an assist on a Sam layup. That gave the Jaguars a 20-2 lead over the stunned and frustrated Tigers.
Griffin got his second personal when he was called for a technical less than six minutes in. Less than four minutes later, Jose Rodriguez was called for a technical after scoring five quick points to get TSU within 25-9.
Prudhomme, Banks and Hyder all made 3-pointers as Southern took its biggest lead at 38-14 with 7½ minutes left in the half, but the Tigers already were in the bonus, which helped revive them.
They scored 17 of their final 23 points of the half on free throws and cut the Jaguars’ lead to 44-32 at halftime even though Griffin, returned to the bench after committing his third foul with 3:04 left.