Southern men lose in SWAC tourney

HOUSTON — The Southern men’s basketball team knew its season would end this week in the Toyota Center.

It just didn’t expect it to happen this fast.

The Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Jaguars lost their first game in the SWAC tournament, falling to eighth-seeded Prairie View 64-46 Wednesday night.

Southern (19-13) wasn’t going to the NCAA tournament no matter what happened here because of NCAA probation, but the Jaguars had dealt with that probability all season long and still went 15-3 in the conference regular season.

But Southern looked like a different team in losing its regular-season finale to Texas Southern 67-64 last Saturday and again Wednesday in a game it never led.

“We went through our challenges, but I’m not going to make that an excuse,” Jaguars coach Roman Banks said. “We came here to play, and tonight we just didn’t play up to our expectations. We didn’t match their intensity, and they flat out beat us.”

Malcolm Miller led the Jaguars with 16 points, but his teammates never mustered any offensive consistency. Calvin Godfrey added 12 points.

“That’s some of the best defense I’ve seen us play since I’ve been here,” Panthers coach Byron Rimm III said. “Our guys did a great job.”

Tre Hagood led the Panthers (10-22) with 16 points, and Jules Montgomery had 12. Prairie View will play the winner of Thursday’s game between fourth-seeded Arkansas-Pine Bluff and fifth-seeded Alabama A&M at 8:30 p.m. Friday.

Southern shot just 35.6 percent from the floor and shot the same 14.3 percent on 3-pointers and free throws (2-for-14).

“I don’t think we had very good concentration,” Banks said. “We had some really good looks on layups that weren’t even contested, and we missed them.”

No Southern players were available for postgame interviews.

The Panthers were much the sharper team after beating Mississippi Valley State 79-63 Tuesday while Southern had a first-round bye.

“I’m a guy who always believes it’s better to play,” Banks said. “I don’t like to not play while the other team is playing.”

Southern fell behind by nine after a lackluster first half and didn’t look any different to begin the second half.

Hagood scored on a layup for Prairie View to start the second-half scoring, and Montgomery added two jumpers as the Panthers used a 10-0 run to take a 35-16 lead.

Miller made a steal and fed Trelun Banks for a layup that produced the Jaguars’ first points, but Prairie View scored four to take its biggest lead at 39-18 with 13:25 left.

Banks made a layup, Miller hit a 3-pointer, and Banks’ steal and layup quickly cut the lead to 14 as the Panthers called timeout with 12:08 left.

Montrael Scott scored four straight points and Hagood added seven straight for Prairie View to push the lead back to 16.

A layup by Yondarius Johnson and a dunk by Miller cut the lead to 12 with 3:28 left, but Louis Munks answered with two free throws.

Godfrey and Miller made consecutive put-backs to cut the lead to 10 with 2:11 left, but Montgomery scored the next eight points to hand Southern a second consecutive conference loss for the first time this season.

That’s the way it went all night for the Jaguars. Every time they looked like they might be mounting a charge, they couldn’t sustain enough offense to loosen the Panthers’ grip on the game.

Miller got off to a fast start, but otherwise the Jaguars had virtually no offense in the first half.

He made Southern’s first three baskets, including a 3-pointer, and Godfrey followed with a three-point play that tied the score at 10.

The Jaguars then went more than eight minutes without scoring as the Panthers scored seven straight points.

Johnson stopped the run by scoring on a drive, but then he missed two free throws as Southern missed 11 straight from the line.

Prairie View wasn’t very good at the line either, making just 7-of-16 in the first half. Patrick Agho’s put-back pushed the Panthers lead to 11 before Miller’s put-back got the Jaguars with 25-16 at halftime.

“From the tip-off, they outworked us,” Banks said. “They beat us to loose balls. They were probably fun to watch from the stands, because they played with a lot of fight. And that’s how you want to see a team play, but they weren’t fun to play against.”