HOUSTON — Texas Southern’s Niya Mitchell showed why she was selected as a preseason all-conference player Saturday night.
Mitchell was nearly unstoppable inside, grabbing 22 rebounds and four steals while scoring 16 points to lead the Tigers to a 61-56 win.
Southern (2-10, 0-1) defeated TSU twice last season on its way to the SWAC regular-season championship, but the Jaguars' inconsistent offense was too much to overcome.
“We got off to a slow start, and that really hurt us,” Southern coach Carlos Funchess said. “We couldn’t score. We were fighting from behind the whole time.”
Jaden Towner made four 3-pointers and topped Southern with 16 points. Towner and Taneara Moore each had seven boards but Southern was outrebounded 46-38. Alyric Scott came off the bench to score 11 points.
Point guard Ataiya Bridges had 17 points for TSU (6-6, 1-0). She also had three of the Tigers' 17 steals.
Texas Southern led 44-41 after three quarters, and looked like it was ready to pull away after a pair of layups by Mitchell that gave the Tigers a 50-41 lead with 5:34 left to play.
Towner had other ideas.
The 5-foot-10 senior made two 3-pointers as Southern pulled within 53-47. She added two free throws a minute later, and hit another 3-pointer after a steal by Scott as Southern trailed 53-52 with 3:16 remaining.
“(Towner) knocked down some big, big shots for us,” Funchess said. “Our kids kept fighting. We cut the lead down and had it right there. We just couldn’t get over the hump.”
Texas Southern got two layups to stretch its lead to 57-52, but an assist and two free throws from Caitlin Davis cut the Tigers' lead to one point with less than a minute to go. Mitchell sandwiched two inside baskets around a turnover by Davis, and Southern missed its final two field-goal attempts as the game ended.
The teams traded baskets to start the game. Towner’s jumper gave Southern an 8-6 lead, but TSU bridged the first and second quarters with a 9-0 run to take a 15-8 lead. Southern used a 9-2 run to tie the score 21-21 before Britnee Gabriel’s free throw gave TSU a 22-21 halftime lead.
TEXAS SOUTHERN 77, SOUTHERN 68: The Jaguars put themselves in position to steal an upset win over Texas Southern on Saturday night, but came undone in the closing minutes.
The Jaguars built a six-point lead with eight minutes to play only to see Texas Southern come storming back to take a win in the Southwestern Athletic Conference opener for both teams at Health & Physical Education Arena.
Brendon Brooks scored nine points in the second half as Southern (3-11, 0-1) took a 61-55 lead with 8:22 left to play. Texas Southern (4-10, 1-0) responded with a 16-3 run and led 71-64 after Eden Ewing’s inside basket with four minutes left.
Southern got as close as 72-68 after two free throws from Brooks, but Ewing scored inside on Texas Southern’s next two possessions to put the game away.
Amel Kuljuhovic and Ashante Shivers led Southern with 13 points apiece. Darius Williams topped Southern with eight rebounds.