Texas Southern eliminates Alcorn State in first round of SWAC Tournament

Published 8:56 am Thursday, March 9, 2023

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Southwestern Athletic Conference regular-season champs were knocked out by the king of the league’s tournament.

Davon Barnes scored 19 points, and No. 8 seed Texas Southern beat top-seeded Alcorn State 66-62 in the first round of the SWAC Tournament on Wednesday.

Texas Southern (12-20) advanced to face either Southern University or Alabama A&M in the semifinals on Friday afternoon. The Tigers have won the last two SWAC tournaments, and six of the last nine.

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Alcorn (18-13) won its second consecutive SWAC regular-season championship, but was eliminated in the tournament by Texas Southern for the third year in a row.

Although the Braves’ NCAA Tournament drought was extended to 21 years, their season is not over. Winning the regular-season SWAC title guaranteed them a berth in the 32-team NIT.

“Of course, you want to make it to the championship game. Only one team is going to win it. We thought this was our best chance of making it,” said Alcorn State’s Landon Bussie, the SWAC Co-Coach of the Year. “We had a few mishaps, but it doesn’t take away from the great season we had.”

Alcorn won two close games against Texas Southern in the regular season, and had another tough one in the tournament. The Braves led by three points at halftime, but Texas Southern went on a 17-0 run early in the second half to take a 50-34 lead on Joirdon Karl Nicholas’ layup with 10:35 to go.

Texas Southern shot 58.3 percent (14-for-24) in the second half.

“They came out, made some adjustments, and played a little harder than us in that span,” Bussie said. “They made a run. That’s what happens.”

Alcorn broke the Tigers’ run with Jeremiah Kendall’s jumper. That started a 14-2 run of their own that got the Braves back in the game. Alcorn got as close as one point on a dunk by Dekedran Thorn with 2:09 remaining, but never got over the hump.

Nicholas had two clutch inside baskets and John Walker III hit one of two free throws with 14 seconds left to put the Tigers 66-62, and that sealed it.

“We knew this would be a tough basketball game,” Texas Southern coach Johnny Jones said. “When they made their run, our guys were able to sustain it. They did a great job of coming up big when it counted.”

Walker finished with 13 points and P.J. Henry had 11 for Texas Southern. Nicholas had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Byron Joshua led Alcorn with 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Kendall, Dekedran Thorn and Dominic Brewton scored 10 points apiece. Alcorn was just 3-for-11 from 3-point range.

“We had opportunities to close that gap a little more or try to take the lead. We just didn’t do it. It’s life. I don’t want these guys to hang their heads or let one game to overshadow the great season that these guys had,” Bussie said. “I think the good thing about it is that we’ve got postseason play. Some other teams that lose tomorrow or today (won’t have that).”