Tyrik Armstrong’s final regular-season game inside H&PE Arena will be one to remember as the senior scored 19 points in the second half to lift the TSU Tigers to 78-73 win over Alabama State.
TSU led twice within the first three minutes to open the contest but that was it from that point as Alabama State led for the final 15:35 of the half outside of one tie. The Hornets claimed an early eight-point lead (14-6) at the 11:08 mark but Justin Hopkins sparked an 8-0 run to knot the contest at 14-all with 9:25 left. Alabama State would respond with a 12-4 surge to lead 26-18 three minutes later but free throws by Hopkins and a basket by Quinton Brigham cut the deficit in half to 26-22. ASU would push its lead back to eight at 30-22 as the closest TSU would get was four as the Hornets claimed a 34-28 halftime lead.
The Tigers struggled from the field in the first half as they shot 28.6 percent and missed all of their three-point attempts. However, TSU’s defense kept the team in the game as they limited ASU to 3-of-16 three-pointers in the half.
Alabama State would take its largest lead (44-35) of the game following Tobi Ewuosho’s jumper with 15:18 left. After a spirited halftime speech by head coach Johnny Jones and an ESPNU national televised audience watching, Armstrong would take it to heart and hit a three-pointer to draw within six and Eden Ewing’s layup closed the gap to 44-40 a minute later.
The contest would begin to get chirpy on both sides over the next minute as a pair of technical fouls were issued to both teams. Despite the fouls, the Tigers kept fighting as John Walker III’s tip-in and an Armstrong layup keyed a 9-2 TSU run which eventually led to TSU outscoring the Hornets 18-8 for their first lead (53-52) since early in the first half.
Alabama State would move back ahead 57-54 two minutes later but TSU responded as they took its largest lead of the game (62-57) after a pair of free throws by Brigham. The Tigers were on the verge of extending the lead after a missed ASU three-pointer but an offensive rebound and putback after being fouled closed the gap to two points. A TSU turnover after the foul led to the fourth tie of the half and ASU went back ahead after Ewuosho’s layup with 4:46 remaining.
Ewing scored a three-pointer the old-fashioned way to move TSU back ahead 65-64 but ASU’s DJ Heath nailed a trey for a 67-65 ASU lead. The Tigers would stumble over the next minute with a missed layup, two missed free throws and a turnover but their defense made up as Brigham blocked an ASU shot and dunked home a game-tying basket off Armstrong’s assist.
Ewing would block ASU’s next shot and Bryson Etienne scored his first points of the night with two huge free throws at the 2:15 mark as TSU led 69-67. Ewing’s fifth foul led to a pair of ASU free throws and the seventh tie of the half but Etienne hit a huge trey by the TSU bench for a 72-69 TSU lead. ASU once again closed the gap to 72-71 after a layup but Armstrong took matters into his own hands late and floated a basket in to move ahead 74-71. ASU would miss a three-pointer on its next attempt and Armstrong closed the game out 4-for-4 from the free-throw line for the win as TSU finished the regular season 10-1 at home and unofficially clinched a top-four seed in the SWAC Tournament and a first-round home game on Tuesday, March 10.
Armstrong scored 21 points with four steals while Ewing and Walker III finished with nine points apiece.
TSU is back in action Thursday night at Southern as the contest begins at 7:30 p.m. in Baton Rouge, La.
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