The Southwestern Athletic Conference will name a champion on Saturday after the fourth-seed Prairie View A&M Panthers and the top-seed Southern Jaguars square off in the title game of the conference tournament at the Culwell Center.
For the first time since winning their only league title in 1998 the Panthers are back in the championship game. Leading them there was Jourdan DeMuynck who scored a career-high 37 points in the semifinals against Jackson State as the Panthers rolled to an 88-75 victory. The Panthers ended the regular season on a two-game slide but have recovered nicely in the tourney.
Southern eased by Alabama A&M in Friday's semifinals, 72-59, to take its place in Saturday's title game. The Jaguars have now won six of their last eight games, including a 61-39 victory over Prairie View A&M in the regular-season finale on March 2. Southern is 22-9 this season but actually should have been the third seed if it weren't for postseason bans for Texas Southern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
The Jaguars' win over the Panthers earlier this month gave them a season sweep and increased their all-time series lead to 55-17.
DeMuynck played all but one minute against Jackson State and knocked down 13- of-23 shots from beyond the arc while collecting three steals on Friday. Montrael Scott also dropped in 20 points for the Panthers who had a 28-18 edge from the free-throw line and shot 56 percent overall.
Scott (4.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg) has really excelled in a starting role after spending the bulk of the regular season off the bench. Scott had a 13-point, 10-rebound double-double in the previous round while the 20 points he scored on Friday were a season-high. DeMuynck (15.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg) has been producing at a high level all year for the Panthers as the only player in double figures consistently, despite shooting 38.7 percent from the field. Poor shooting has been an issue for the Panthers as they net just 39.6 percent from the field. They have made up for it as the fourth-best rebounding team in the country (40.7 pg).
Led by 19 points from both Derick Beltran and Malcolm Miller, Southern posted the semifinal victory over Alabama A&M. The Jaguars scored from all over the floor in the contest, netting 10 shots from beyond the arc, while connecting on 20-of-30 shots from the free-throw line.
Beltran (16.0 ppg) and Miller (16.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg) have been one of the best scoring duos in the SWAC this season. Miller has been the more efficient scorer, hitting on 52 percent of his shots from the floor, while Beltran has taken more shots from long distance and nets just under 40 percent from the field. Javan Mitchell (9.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and Jameel Grave (9.3 ppg) provide additional depth for the Jaguars who were the second-best team in the conference in scoring (68.4 pg) this season. Southern is also a stout defensive team, ranking among the top 15 teams in the country in both points allowed (57.5 pg) and opponent field-goal percentage (.366).