BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Texas Southern earned a spot in the semifinals behind a dominant second half performance as they defeated Alcorn State 78-55 in the first round of the 2021 SWAC Tournament at Bartow Arena.
With both teams playing roughly one week ago, familiarity was the theme early on Byron Joshua and Anthony Fairley once again were thorns in TSU’s side as they led ASU to an early 12-4 lead. In what would be a preview of the night to come, Karl Nicholas got TSU back in the game early with two big baskets followed by a John Walker III score for a 12-10 deficit with 13:38 remaining.
Alcorn State wouldn’t relinquish its lead throughout the half as the Braves pushed its margin to 29-22 with 3:33 left on Tyree Corbet’s three-pointer. TSU’s John Jones answered with a much-needed trey to draw within 29-25 but Joshua once again scored a three-pointer to keep ASU up by seven at 32-25. TSU’s Justin Hopkins picked up a huge offensive rebound off a Michael Weathers’ missed basket and was fouled. His two free throws drew TSU to within 32-27 and after a wild sequence, Weathers scored a layup to draw within 32-29 with 1:34 left. An ASU turnover led to a three-pointer by Jones and a tie game 24 seconds later but ASU went into the half ahead 34-32 after a late jumper by Joshua.
TSU would begin to assert themselves offensively in the second half as they outscored ASU 10-1 within the first two minutes to lead 42-35. ASU answered and closed to 45-43 after a Corbett trey but TSU’s defensive adjustments coupled with Nicholas’ energy over the next 11 minutes put the game away as the junior scored 17 points to spark a 26-11 surge which gave TSU a 71-51 lead with 3:52 left. The Tigers never looked back after that as they advanced to the semifinals for the 10th straight year.
Nicholas led TSU with 24 points on 11-of-16 shooting along with 13 rebounds and four blocks. Walker III added 14 points and eight rebounds while Weathers scored 13 followed by 10 from Hopkins. Hopkins added nine rebounds with eight each from Walker III and Weathers.
TSU will face Jackson State in the semifinals tomorrow at 2 p.m. This marks the first meeting between the teams in 2021 as the first contest was canceled due to COVID-19 and the last was called off due to weather in Jackson, Miss.