So far Texas Southern has the guard play to compete in the NCAA Tournament. The trio of Damontrae Jefferson, Donte Clark and Derrick Bruce showed that Wednesday night at UD Arena in the Tigers’ 64-46 victory over North Carolina Central in a battle of No. 16 seeds.
TSU (16-19) will play West Region No. 1 seed Xavier at 7:20 p.m. Friday in Nashville.
TSU’s three guards entered the tournament averaging a combined 55.9 points a game. They combined for 52 points in the program’s first NCAA Tournament victory in its fourth appearance in the past five years and eighth overall.
Jefferson, a 5-foot-7 sophomore and the quickest player on the floor, scored 17 of his 25 points in the first half in a duel with Central (19-16) center Raasean Davis, who scored 16.
But Jefferson had more help with Clark and Bruce combining for 15 points. Central led 10-6 before those three led an 8-0 TSU run that grew into a 24-10 run. The Tigers led 36-26 at halftime.
Clark drove the lane for consecutive buckets early in the second half to spark a 13-3 run that pushed the lead to 54-34 with 11:27 to play. Clark scored 10 points in the second half to finish with 18. Bruce scored nine.
Davis led the Eagles with 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting. His teammates never found the range and the team shot 30 percent and failed to make a 3-pointer. TSU shot only 36.8 percent but made 12 more free throws and six 3-pointers.
TSU started the season 0-13 and played all of those games on the road, mostly against power five conference teams. The Tigers lost to NCAA Tournament teams Gonzaga, Ohio State, Syracuse, Kansas, Clemson and TCU. They are 16-6 since.