HOUSTON – For the fourth time in five years, Texas Southern rules the roost in the Southwestern Athletic Conference as the Tigers pulled away down the stretch for an 84-69 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, claiming the 2018 Toyota SWAC Men’s Basketball Tournament championship in the process.
Tournament Most Valuable Player Trae Jefferson led the way for the Tigers, who had four players in double figures. Jefferson scored 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Donte Clark added 14 points, Derrick Bruce scored 13 points. Trayvon Reed scored a team-best 17 points to go with 10 boards and four rejections.
Texas Southern (15-19), which used a blistering second-half of offense to pull away from Prairie View A&M during the semifinals, delivered more of the same to open the game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. After Trent Steen connected on a jumper to pull the Golden Lions to within one, Donte Clark scored eight points as he powered a 13-1 run to put the Tigers ahead by double-digits near the midpoint of the first half.
Martaveous McKnight brought Arkansas-Pine Bluff (14-20) within striking distance as the Golden Lions cut it to within five. However, the Tigers continued their hot shooting, connecting on 60 percent of its tries – including a 7-for-15 clip from deep – to take a 45-36 lead into the locker rooms.
Christian Robertson found some success against Texas Southern to open the second half, scoring six early points. However, the Golden Lions couldn’t do enough to close the gap on TSU during the early goings of the second half. After Trayvon Reed converted a three-point play to put the Tigers up 11, the Golden Lions came alive.
Terrance Baynard responded in kind on the other end, and McKnight connected on a teardrop on the following possession. Harper then cashed-in on an acrobatic finish at the rim and Robertson sank one of two at the line to close the deficit to 55-52 with 12:40 left.
Banyard knocked down a jumper at the line to pull UAPB within one possession, and after a Reed dunk, McKnight finished underneath the rim to make it 59-57 with 10:20 left. From there, the Tigers pulled away on a 14-4 run that coincided with a Texas Southern’s Robert Lewis then nailed a corner trey to push TSU back ahead by five, and Jefferson swished home a floater in the lane, making it 64-57.
Texas Southern then pulled away with a 14-4 run over a seven-minute stretch during which UAPB made just one of their 11 field-goal tries. For the game, TSU shot 59.1 percent from the floor (26-of-44) including a 10-of-21 line from deep.
Harper led all players with 21 points and seven rebounds. McKnight netted 17, and Robertson 11.
Trae Jefferson, Texas Southern (SWAC Men’s Tournament Most Valuable Player)
Donte Clark, Texas Southern
Travon Harper, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Martaveous McKnight, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Gary Blackston, Prairie View A&M