First Four: Holy Cross holds off Southern

Holy Cross overcame a sloppy second half to earn its first NCAA Tournament win since 1953.

The Crusaders had nine turnovers in the second half but survived Southern University’s late runs to advance from the First Four with a 59-55 victory Wednesday at UD Arena.

Southern, trailing 27-22 at the break, opened the second half with a 7-0 run from Adrian Rodgers, but Holy Cross (15-19) cleaned up its offense just enough to battle back and held on to become the ninth sub-.500 team in NCAA Tournament history to win at least one tournament game.

Holy Cross advances to play top-seeded Oregon in a West Region first-round game Friday in Spokane, Wash.

Only 24 other teams with losing records have ever made the field.

Robert Champion finished with a game-high 19 points to lead Holy Cross, while Anthony Thompson added 12 points, and the Crusaders were helped by a 14-of-19 effort from the free-throw line.

Southern (22-13) made things interesting in the final three minutes when it suddenly started making 3-pointers, after missing its first 12 attempts. Shawn Prudhomme hit the first trey of the night to put the Jaguars ahead 49-48 with 2:34 left, but Holy Cross went 6-for-6 from the line down the stretch and never again trailed.

The Jaguars tied it on a 3-pointer from Trelun Banks with 1:24 left but couldn’t regain the lead. Rodgers led Southern with 14 points.

In the first half, Holy Cross limited Southern to eight field goals on 22 attempts (36 percent).

Champion, Thompson and Malachi Alexander each scored seven points to lead Holy Cross in the first half, as the Crusaders built a 12-point lead with under four minutes to play before the break. Southern used a 7-0 run to close the gap to within three in the final minute.

Southern got seven points from Prudhomme and six from Jared Sam.