Tyrone Lyons hit two three-pointers in the final 11.4 seconds, including the game-winner with .05 seconds left as Southern won an intense 77-76 overtime battle over Texas Southern in both teams’ SWAC opener on Monday.
Before the Tigers took the court, adversity stared them in their faces as two of the team’s top four scorers were not available which severely hampered the team’s depth plus the loss of scoring punch.
With it being the team’s SWAC opener and a former TSU player on the opposing sideline in the SU starting lineup in Bryson Etienne, the Jaguars led 8-2 within the first three minutes but John Walker III kept the Tigers close with six points as the gap closed to 8-6 with 14:56 left.
Southern scored six straight to lead 14-6 but both teams began to cool off over the next few minutes as TSU drew to within 17-12 after four points from Joirdon Karl Nicholas and free throws from Walker III. Southern would maintain the lead over the next five minutes but TSU began to settle down as they went on a 6-0 run aided by freshman Zytarious Mortle’s four points which cut the lead to 26-24 at the 2:44 mark. However, Southern answered with a 12-3 run to close out the first half as they went into the break ahead 38-27.
Both teams would match each other’s production to open the second half which allowed SU to lead early by 15 (47-32). With the momentum in SU’s favor and the energy level draining quickly, the Tigers turned to Zytarious Mortle for offense and he responded with seven points to spark a 10-0 run which allowed TSU to get back into the game as they trailed 53-48 with 9:46 left. However, Etienne answered with a three after the run as SU scored five straight to stay ahead by double digits (58-48).
But once again, TSU dug deep and refused to go away as they outscored SU 9-2 over the next 3:50 to get within 60-57 with 4:14 left. From that point, it was all nip-and-tuck as TSU used its defensive effort to hold SU scoreless as Mortle hit a jumper to tie it at 63-all with 50 seconds left. SU had a chance to claim the lead late but the TSU defense forced SU to miss another tough shot attempt which allowed TSU to take a timeout after the rebound and play for the win with 21 seconds left. However, TSU couldn’t convert the final attempt which forced overtime.
SU scored first in OT but Mortle overcame two early misses from the charity stripe with two of his own to tie it up. TSU forced a stop and Jordan Gilliam drove the lane to up the lead 67-65. SU drew a foul on a putback but hit 1-of-2 as they trailed 67-66.
From there it was the Mortle show as he executed an and-one for a 70-66 lead. However, Etienne responded with a trey to draw within one but Mortle hit a cold-blooded trey to keep TSU ahead by two possessions 73-69. Southern would hit two more free throws for a 73-71 deficit and had to change its strategy to fouling TSU to save the clock and possibly steal possessions. With 21.4 seconds left, Gilliam hit two free throws for a 75-71 lead but with 11.4 seconds left SU’s Tyrone Lyons hit a three to trail 75-74.
After a back-and-forth inbound exchange, SU fouled Gilliam with 6.2 seconds left. He hit 1-of-2 with the latter a miss as it led to Lyons’ free throws.
Free throw shooting was TSU’s Achilles’ heel as they shot only 17-of-33 from the line while SU finished 20-of-28.
Mortle scored a career-high 34 points with eight rebounds while Walker III had 14 followed by 13 points from Nicholas.
TSU is back in action Wednesday night against Grambling for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off inside the H&PE Arena.
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