Texas Southern secured an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with an 84-69 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday afternoon. It was yet another disappoint for a No. 1 seed, as the Golden Lions got bullied off the court by the third-seeded Tigers.
Texas Southern was the story of the SWAC Tournament, rolling through each of its three games with double-digit margins of victory. Despite losing to Arkansas-Pine Bluff twice in the regular season, the Tigers played their best game of the season when it counted.
Led by a perfect night from the field from junior Trayvon Reed (7-for-7, 17 points 10 boards), Texas Southern controlled the game with a blistering offensive performance. Arkansas-Pine Bluff just couldn’t get into a rhythm. The game felt nearly over when the Tigers went on a bruising 13-1 run in the first half that gave the Tigers a 24-11 lead.
The Golden Lions would not come back from this deficit. Arkansas-Pine Bluff narrowed the lead back to four behind some plays from Martaveous McKnight, but Texas Southern had all the answers and led by 9 at the end of the first half.
Texas Southern didn’t exactly coast to the finish line — the lead fell to 57-53 at one point — but in the end, Arkansas-Pine Bluff did not have enough athletically to get the job done. The Golden Lions had serious trouble containing Texas Southern inside all night. Reed, Texas Southern’s 7-foot-2 center, did whatever he wanted in the paint and snagged 10 boards. Texas Southern shot 69.2 percent from two (nice) and athletically dominated Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Where this type of hyper-efficient offense was in the regular season is still unknown.
Texas Southern’s second consecutive SWAC crown was favored by KenPom and not exactly unexpected since the Tigers were the No. 3 seed only on virtue of tiebreakers and Grambling State’s ineligibility. However, it’s still an impressive accomplishment for head coach Mike Davis, who has now made the NCAA Tournament in four of the past five years. Texas Southern is probably destined for a play-in game, but the Tigers should still be proud of what they did in the SWAC Tournament.