BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – PJ Henry’s 11 points in the final 6:08 of the game propelled the Texas Southern University men’s basketball team to its third consecutive Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament championship and 11th overall in a 61-58 thriller over Grambling State University.
TSU (14-20) raced out to a 22-5 lead midway through the first half thanks to outstanding shooting and a pesky defensive effort.
John Walker III scored 10 points in the game-opening run to help pace the offense that went 7-for-12 from the field, 1-for-3 from long range, and 7-for-8 from the charity stripe.
Those eight free throws attempted were key as GSU fouled far more than they wanted along with getting their top scorers in early foul trouble adding fuel to the fire that was burning inside the hearts and souls of the TSU players and coaching staff.
GSU, who still has never qualified for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, would see top scorer Cameron Christon sit for most of the first half with three fouls and others having two fouls headed into the halftime break.
When Christon was in the game during the first half, his presence was easily felt as he was the first GSU player to score a field goal but it wasn’t until 6:37 into the game that TSU had already built a 13-2 lead prior to the made field goal.
To say that the first half was all TSU would be an understatement as the Tigers built a 31-18 lead at the half thanks to outrebounding GSU 28-13 and leading for a total of 19:04.
Grambling State would slowly start to inch back into the game after getting all of their starters on the court again before foul trouble kicked in during the first half.
Christon’s pair of free throws with 18:58 left in the second half cut the TSU lead to less than 10 for the first time since the 13:23 mark of the first half.
Davon Barnes’ pair of free throws with 9:25 to go in the game gave TSU a 43-35 lead, but an 8-0 run from GSU with all eight points coming from the hands of Tra’Michael Moton knotted the game at 43-43 with 7:12 to go in the game.
At this time, Henry then decided it was time to get busy and make sure that it was his team that would be making preparations to go dancing in the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive time and 11th overall as the Tigers battled through sickness, various nagging ailments one gets during a college basketball season and injuries.
A lot of credit for the win today has to go to the coaching staff especially head coach Johnny Jones for keeping the players ready to pounce on any and every opportunity the opposition would give throughout the tournament.
With the Tigers having been the preseason favorite to win the conference to finish in eighth place in the standing and barely squeaking their way into the tournament before pulling off three upsets in four days, it is easy to see why Jones is now 26-8 in the month of March as he knows how to prepare his team for the long haul instead of the short ride.
Henry finished the contest with a game-high 19 points and was only one of two TSU Tigers to drain at least one three-point shot with the other being Walker III who connected on his only attempt.
Barnes added 13 points and added a team-high eight rebounds in the game as well.
Zahad Munford led Grambling State in scoring with 12 points while teammate Jonathan Aku collected a game-best 10 rebounds.
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