Texas Southern earned its first NCAA tournament win in eight appearances with a 64-46 First Four win over North Carolina Central on Wednesday night. The opening game of the second night of action from Dayton, the Tigers jumped out to an early double-digit lead and rode that until the end.
Sophomore point guard Damontrae Jefferson established himself early in the game with 17 first-half points as he finished with 25 points to pace Texas Southern. The flashy 5-foot-7 Jefferson became a favorite of local fans and announcers as he also hauled in eight rebounds.
The Tigers (16-19) showed a strong effort on the defensive end as big man Trayvon Reed was a presence at the rim with 10 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots. Senior guard Donte Clark also chipped in 18 points for Texas Southern. Sixth in the country in free-throw attempts at around 23 per contest, Texas Southern was 16-for-19 from the charity stripe.
The SWAC champions started the season 0-13 playing all road games against bigger conference opponents but now they have an eight-game winning streak following Wednesday night’s win. Texas Southern’s victory was also the first postseason win in school history as the Tigers were 0-9 including two NIT appearances.
North Carolina Central (19-16) was led by junior center Raasean Davis as he contributed a double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds. The MEAC champions were the No. 6 seed entering the conference tournament before making a surprise run to the NCAA tournament. But the five-game winning streak was snapped for the Eagles as they lost in the First Four for the second consecutive season.
Ice cold from the floor, North Carolina Central was 0-for-14 from three-point range and only shot 30 percent (21-for-69) from the field.
Texas Southern moves on to face No. 1 seed Xavier in the West Region on Friday. That game will be a 7:20 p.m. EST tip in Nashville. The Musketeers will, quite obviously, be the heavy favorite in that one but it will be fun to see if Jefferson can keep the Tigers in the game after a brilliant opening-game performance.