Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - The NCAA Tournament-bound Texas Southern Tigers and Southern Jaguars battle for the SWAC Tournament title at Toyota Center on Saturday.
An automatic trip to the NCAA Tournament is not on the line, however, because Southern is ineligible for postseason play due to its academic progress rates. The ban began in Dec. 2013.
As a result, Texas Southern earned the conference's automatic bid to the "Big Dance" with its 90-77 win over Prairie View A&M in Friday's semifinal,
Chris Thomas and Malcolm Riley each scored 23 points, while Tonnie Collier added 15 points off the bench. Madarious Gibbs, the SWAC Player of the Year, recorded 14 points with seven assists and leads the team in both categories (14.2 ppg, 4.2 apg) this season. Deverell Biggs and Thomas both average over 12.0 ppg, while Riley leads the team in rebounds (6.2 rpg) and upped his scoring total to an even 10.0 ppg.
Southern won a thriller in its semifinal, as Keith Davis buried a pair of free throws in the final seconds to give the Jaguars a 68-66 win over second-seeded Alabama State.
Alabama State, which led by 10 with less than seven minutes remaining, shot only 1-of-9 from the floor over the final six minutes. Southern also held the Hornets to 30.2 percent shooting, and its bench outscored its counterparts, 30-9.
Davis, a perfect 4-of-4 at the free-throw line, finished with six points off the bench for the Jaguars, who received 15 points from Adrian Rodgers, 14 from Tre Lynch and 12 from Trelun Banks.
Those three players - Rodgers, Lynch and Banks - are the focal point of Southern's offense. Each averages double digits, with Rodgers' 13.2 ppg leading the way and Lynch and Banks adding 12.4 and 10.2 ppg, respectively. Christopher Hyder has been especially careful with the ball, boasting nearly a 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio and averaging 3.9 apg.
Texas Southern, winners of 11 straight games overall, won both regular season meetings against Southern, the last an 88-78 victory in Houston just last week.
Southern owns a conference-record eight tourney titles, the last coming in 2013. Texas Southern has won this event five times, including last year.