Texas Southern denies Alcorn State in SWAC championship game

Published 8:40 pm Saturday, March 12, 2022

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Alcorn State’s return to the NCAA Tournament will have to wait. Texas Southern’s dynasty is still going strong.

John Walker III scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half and Texas Southern pulled away for an 87-62 victory over Alcorn State on Saturday in the championship game of the Southwestern Athletic Conference men’s basketball tournament, earning the Tigers an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.

AJ Lawson finished with 14 points for the Tigers, who were playing in their fifth straight conference title game and earned a spot in the NCAA tourney for a 10th time in program history. Texas Southern (18-12) won its second SWAC tournament title in a row, and sixth in the last nine years.

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Alcorn State (17-16) was aiming for it first SWAC tournament title and NCAA Tournament berth in 20 years. It did win the regular season SWAC championship, however, and thus will get an automatic bid to the NIT when the 32-team consolation tournament’s field is announced Sunday night.

The Braves beat Texas Southern twice during the regular season by a total of three points — 16 of Alcorn’s 33 games this season were decided by less than six points, including its first two in the SWAC Tournament — and this one seemed to be following the same pattern for a while.

PJ Henry had 11 of his 15 points in the first half to guide the second-seeded Tigers (18-12) to a 42-38 lead at intermission. Texas Southern shot 57 percent (16-of-28) in the first half and sank 3 of 6 from 3-point range. The top-seeded Braves stayed in the game by making 14 of 18 free throws.

A layup by Justin Thomas pulled Alcorn State within 57-54 with 12:16 remaining, but Walker hit a jumper to spark an 11-0 run that he capped with two free throws and the Tigers led 68-54 with 8:41 left. Walker had a layup and two more free throws to end a 12-4 spurt to push TSU’s lead to 80-58 at the 4:47 mark.

Thomas topped Alcorn State with 18 points. Freshman Byron Joshua scored 13 and Lenell Henry had nine points and seven rebounds. Alcorn was just 6-for-34 (17.6 percent)shooting from the field in the second half. It shot 28.3 percent (17-for-60) in the game.