GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Texas Southern men’s basketball made history once again as the Tigers became the first team in SWAC history to defeat a ranked opponent from the SEC after an impressive 69-54 win over No. 20 Florida Monday night.
“I thought our guys did a tremendous job tonight getting off to a great start,” said head coach Johnny Jones. “I thought we had a very solid first half of basketball.”
Aside from a Brison Gresham layup at the 19:05 mark, Florida would remain out front during a seven-minute span as they would lead by as much as six on several occasions. TSU would reverse the outcome around the 12-minute mark as PJ Henry drained a three-pointer which kick-started a 10-3 run aided by 5-of-6 shooting as TSU jumped ahead 22-18 with 9:04 left.
TSU turned to the aggressor once they had the lead and stepped up its play on both ends as they held Florida to only three field goals the remainder of the half while connecting on 50 percent of their baskets (6-of-12) en route to a 35-25 halftime lead. In addition to TSU’s offense, they also doubled the Gators on the glass by a 22-11 rebound margin.
Knowing the Gators would come out fired up with their SEC streak on the line, TSU was up for the task to open the second half. Justin Hopkins opened the second half with a backdoor cut to the rim for a 37-25 lead. The Gators would eventually knock the lead down to eight (39-31) but TSU turned to its rebounding to generate its next basket as TSU picked up a pair of offensive rebounds which led to a John Walker III trey with the shot clock winding down for a huge 42-31 lead with 16:13 remaining.
The possession took the wind out of Florida’s sails as TSU began to assert themselves on both ends. The Tigers took it to the Gators offensively with near-perfect (7-of-8) shooting over the next six minutes while holding Florida to 2-8 shooting which eventually led to a 19-point (55-36) lead at the 10:17 mark. Unlike the past few games which saw the team lose second-half leads, the Tigers refused to budge this time as they upped their margin to 20 points twice down the stretch as Florida would draw no closer than 15 points.
“I thought they did a tremendous job in the second half staying extremely focused, taking care of the basketball, making extra passes, really defending on the other end of the floor, and then really took the game and broke it down in the second – the timeouts and trying to come back out and making sure that we had the same intensity level when we left off the floor,” said Jones. “All in all, I thought we played extremely well against a very tough, hard-nosed basketball team that we know is going to have a great season this year.
While the win was monumental, TSU has been there before as this was its first win over a ranked team since a win at Oregon in 2018 and its second-ranked win since 2014. In addition, the win also marked the first against an SEC opponent since 2018 (Texas A&M).
Three players scored in double figures led by PJ Henry’s 16 points followed by 14 from Karl Nicholas and 13 from John Walker III. Brison Gresham led TSU on the board with 13 rebounds while Nicholas and Walker both had two blocks.
TSU will have a week off to prepare for its next opponent as they’ll head south to Edinburg, Texas for a contest at UTRGV on Tuesday, Dec. 14.
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