Damontrae Jefferson scored a game-high 25 points Wednesday night, and Texas Southern choked off North Carolina Central’s offense for a 64-46 victory in an NCAA Tournament First Four game at UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio.
The result sends the Tigers (16-19) to Nashville, Tenn., on Friday night for a first-round game with Xavier, the top seed in the West Region. It was the first-ever NCAA Tournament win for Texas Southern in eight tries.
“I know a lot of teams didn’t make it this far,” Jefferson said of the chance to play the Musketeers, “so it’s a blessing to be able to continue our season.”
The 5-foot-7 Jefferson also hauled in eight rebounds for the Tigers, who are 16-6 after an 0-13 start. Donte Clark added 18 points and seven rebounds while 7-foot-2 center Trayvon Reed chipped in 10 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots.
Center Raasean Davis scored 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Eagles (19-16), but he got no help from his teammates. While Davis made 9 of 11 shots from the floor, everyone else for North Carolina Central combined to hit 12 of 58 (20.7 percent). The Eagles missed all 14 of their 3-point attempts.
North Carolina Central actually got off to a decent start, leading 10-6 at the 13:44 mark of the first half when Davis converted a jumper. However, Texas Southern rattled off eight consecutive points for a 14-10 advantage on Jefferson’s layup with 10:29 left, and the Tigers never trailed again.
Clark expanded the lead to 32-20 with 3:40 remaining on two foul shots, and only a jumper by Davis with 13 seconds left enabled the Eagles to trail by just 36-26 at halftime.
The Tigers owned a double-figure lead for the final 15:02 of the game, even though they endured a scoring drought of 5:37 after a Jefferson 3-pointer upped their advantage to 54-34 with 11:29 left. Texas Southern led by as many as 24 points in the final three minutes.
The Tigers cruised despite canning just 36.8 percent of their field-goal attempts.
—Field Level Media