PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Texas Southern coach Mike Davis says his plan to load up on tough non-conference opponents got his team to the NCAA Tournament. And it will again.
Davis, who led Indiana to the national championship game in 2002, scheduled teams like Gonzaga and Baylor early to prepare the Tigers for what they would face in the postseason.
He vowed to do the same next season after No. 15 seed Texas Southern fell 93-72 to second-seeded Arizona on Thursday.
“We’ll definitely be back next year here in the tournament,” Davis said. “We’ve got a lot of things to work on. The first thing we going to do is get a really good non-conference game during our season so we won’t be overwhelmed.”
Despite his best efforts this season, the Tigers were overwhelmed by the bigger and faster Wildcats.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 23 points and 10 rebounds for Arizona (32-3), which jumped to a 54-33 halftime lead and cruised the rest of the way. Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Stanley Johnson added 22 points.
Madarious Gibbs had 15 points for Texas Southern (22-13), which secured an automatic bid by winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament. The senior guard also was the SWAC Player of the year.
“They’re a great basketball team. With size and athleticism that they have, it was kind of hard to compete with them,” Gibbs said. “But we went out and fought our hardest and tried to do the best that we could.”
Forward Malcolm Riley, who was cut above the eye in the SWAC championship game and required seven stitches, played with a bandage.
It was the 12th straight win for the Wildcats, who were coming off an 80-52 victory against Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game last weekend.
Texas Southern was making its second straight appearance in the tournament after a 62-58 victory over Southern for the SWAC title. Last season, the Tigers fell to Cal Poly in their NCAA Tournament opener.
The Wildcats rolled through last year’s tournament with victories over Weber State, Gonzaga and San Diego State before falling to Wisconsin in the round of eight.
The teams had never met, but Arizona was wary going into the game because of Texas Southern’s regular-season upsets at Michigan State and Kansas State. The Wildcats, meanwhile, had dropped games to unranked challengers UNLV, Oregon State and Arizona State.
The Wildcats took a 15-2 lead, subduing the smaller Tigers from the start. Brandon Ashley’s dish to Dusan Ristic under the basket for a layup extended the lead to 17-4.
Deverell Biggs’ steal and fast-break layup narrowed the gap to 21-11. But Arizona pulled away to a 40-20 advantage on Hollis-Jefferson’s dunk with 4:15 left in the half.
Hollis-Jefferson led all players with 16 points and seven rebounds at intermission. Tonnie Collier had eight points in seven first-half minutes for the Tigers. The reserve finished with 10 points.
Arizona stretched the lead to 66-39 on Elliott Pitts’ layup in the second half, but coach Sean Miller was judicious with his starters. The Wildcats outrebounded the Tigers 35-19.
“Just gotta keep coming to work and build on what we have,” Collier said. “I thought we had a pretty good season.”
So did Davis.
“I’m so proud of this basketball team,” he said. “We overachieved a majority of the year. We came together and realized we were a really good basketball team. We learned a lot. We grew a lot together.”
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