Texas Southern, Syracuse Emerge Victorious To Round Out First Four

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Connor Hanson
Staff Writer

In a sellout crowd, sixteen-seeds North Carolina Central and Texas Southern, and 11-seeds Syracuse and Arizona State had the honors of closing out the First Four Wednesday night.

Texas Southern came into UD Arena and pulled away in the second half to win 64-46, thanks to dominant guard play. Meanwhile, Syracuse crushed ASU fans’ hearts as they came back to win the game late, 60-56.

Jefferson’s Play Says Believe The Height

Texas Southern guards, Damontrae Jefferson (5 foot 7) and Donte Clark pumped out a combined 43 points with Jefferson contributing a game-high 25. Center Trayvon Reed joined them in double-digits with 10 points on an efficient four-for-four from the field. Reed rounded out the rest of his stat sheet, finishing the game with eight rebounds and six blocks.

As for NC Central, center Raasean Davis carried the load offensively, scoring 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds (five OREB). The next-highest scoring Eagle was forward Pablo Rivas, who finished with seven points and a game-high 12 rebounds.

Player stats aside, the story of the game was Texas Southern’s stifling defense. NC Central shot a season-low 30 percent from the field and 38 of its also season-low 48 points came from inside the paint. And the Eagles could’ve done more damage in the paint if it wasn’t for the Tigers’ 16 blocks.

From the perimeter, the Eagles couldn’t find their stroke, failing to make a single three-pointer in 14 attempts.

This win was the Tigers’ first ever NCAA Tournament win in program history and halted what was a seven-game win streak by the Eagles.

“It was for the university. We actually made history today for the university,” Jefferson said in the postgame press conference.

“So it was just, come here and play our game, actually was to score and get stops and come up with a win, and we accomplished the goal.”

Coach Mike Davis and Texas Southern will face off against the West Region number one seed, Xavier on Friday at 7:20 p.m.

Boeheim Notches Another NCAA Tourney Win

Blue-blood head coaches Jim Boeheim and Bobby Hurley squared off in the final contest of this year’s First Four. The game finished in true, competitive fashion with Syracuse’s defense stopping Arizona State’s last possession.

The first half consisted of a well-contested game. Although Syracuse led for just under 15 minutes, its biggest lead was only five points, leading at half 30-28.

Arizona State came out of the break hot, opening up with an 8-0 run. That outburst put the Sun Devils up six and forced a timeout from Boeheim.

Syracuse ended up working its way back throughout the half and the teams found themselves tied with 2:30 remaining. Orange guard Tyus Battle then hit the shot of the night, a go-ahead three-pointer that put Syracuse up three with 1:40 to go. Syracuse held its own from there and stymied a comeback with late free throws.

Battle joined his teammates, Oshae Brissett and Frank Howard as scorers in double-digits. But it was Brissett who stole the statline of the night with 23 points and 12 rebounds.

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“No matter how much people have pressured us, no matter what’s happened at the end of the game they still make plays,” Boeheim credited his team’s heart in the postgame press conference.

“I think one thing about this tournament as it goes on, I think that you’ll see that there’s going to be a lot of tough games. There’s a lot of good teams.”

This was Boeheim’s 54th NCAA Tournament win, which puts him in a tie for fourth-most in tournament history (Rick Pitino). Syracuse will face six-seed Texas Christian University in Detroit on Friday at 9:40 p.m.

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The attendance for Wednesday night was 12,732; a sellout and a First Four record.

Photos Taken by Griffin Quinn/Staff Photographer