Jalen Jackson scored 22 points and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi withstood a late rally from Southeast Missouri State, advancing with a 75-71 win in a First Four contest in Dayton, Ohio Tuesday night.
The No. 16 Islanders (24-10) move on to play the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, Alabama, in the South Region on Thursday in Birmingham, Ala.
Chris Harris had a game-high 23 points while Phillip Russell added 15 points and 10 assists for SEMO (19-17). Harris was one of three Redhawks to foul out in a game marred by fouls.
Jackson made two free throws with 13.9 seconds left for a 74-71 lead and the Islanders opted not to foul as Russell worked to get free for a shot. His step-back 3 that could have tied the game was short, allowing A&M-CC to hang on.
The Islanders made 27 of 35 free throws, while SEMO was 9 of 20. Jackson alone made 14 free throws for A&M-CC.
“At the end of the day, we made a few more free throws, we got a couple more rebounds, and obviously we were able to come out on the victorious side,” Islanders coach Steve Lutz said. “I couldn’t be more excited for these guys and I couldn’t be more excited for our basketball program.”
“Free throws and rebounding cost us that opportunity (to come back and win the game), SEMO head coach Brad Korn added.
In their first game since losing star senior guard Terrion Murdix to a left knee injury in the Southland tournament championship game, the Islanders overcame an off night from their leading scorer. Trevian Tennyson, who was averaging a team-leading 15.7 points coming in, was held to just two points in the first half before finishing with 12.
The A&M-CC win avenges a disappointing loss on the same court in 2022, when Texas Southern rallied and advanced from the First Four.
“It’s a surreal moment. We were in this position last year, but we were on the other side,” Jackson said.
Jackson converted a layup before Harris answered with a pair of free throws with 3:07 remaining to tie the game, 64-64.
Jackson made two free throws with 2:48 left to put A&M-CC back ahead for good. With Harris out of the game, Russell had a pair of baskets to keep SEMO close.
–Field Level Media