Texas Southern Rallies to Beat Mount St. Mary's; Will Face Michigan in Round 1

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 18, 2021

Texas Southern forward John Walker III (24) grabs a rebound next to Mount St. Mary's forward Malik Jefferson (42) during the second half of a First Four game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Thursday, March 18, 2021, in Bloomington, Ind. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
Doug McSchooler/Associated Press

Texas Southern secured the first win of the 2021 men's NCAA tournament with a 60-52 victory over Mount St. Mary's.

Thursday's First Four win sets the Tigers up for a Round 1 game against No. 1 Michigan in the East Region.

John Walker III had 19 points and nine rebounds for Texas Southern (17-8), which overcame a 10-point halftime deficit in the battle of 16 seeds at Assembly Hall in Bloomington Indiana. 

The Tigers hung on despite making just 10 of their 19 free throws.

As is usually the case in March Madness, a few plays made the difference. Joirdon Karl Nicholas came through with the biggest points of the game with just over two minutes remaining:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

This putback by Karl Nicholas 🤭 https://t.co/iLNV52xhcG

Mount St. Mary's (12-11) simply couldn't make enough shots down the stretch.

The SWAC tournament champions won their 10th straight to advance.


Notable Performances

John Walker III, F, TXSO: 19 points, 9 rebounds, 1 block

Jordan Gilliam, G, TXSO: 12 points, 4 rebounds

Damian Chong Qui, G, MSM: 14 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists

Mezie Offurum, F, MSM: 10 points, 16 rebounds, 2 blocks


Second-Half Surge Leads Texas Southern to Victory

Texas Southern looked dead in the water at halftime with just 20 points in the first 20 minutes.

It took less than four minutes to get the next 11 as the Tigers pushed the pace and found easier shots:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Texas Southern making a comeback 🔥 Jordan Gilliam makes this 3. https://t.co/UdwRUwF4nO

Steve Layman @SteveLayman

Johnny Jones halftime adjustments. Wow. Texas Southern 11-0 run to take the lead.

The outside shooting was a major difference, as the team made four of its first five shots from three-point range after halftime to take a four-point lead.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Jordan Gilliam cashes another 3 💰 we got a game. https://t.co/vWhAt8fJNl

John Walker III was especially all over the place for Texas Southern, scoring inside and out while making big plays defensively:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

This block 😳 https://t.co/yZAfGSbIkR

He finished one rebound short of his first career double-double.

Walker helped Texas Southern outscore Mount St. Mary's 40-22 in the second half, more than enough to secure the win.


Poor Shooting Derails Mount St. Mary's

The first half went about as well as possible for Mount St. Mary's, which played outstanding defense to make everything difficult for Texas Southern.

Just as importantly, the squad found ways to turn defense into transition points:

CBS Sports @CBSSports


Bleacher Report CBB @br_CBB

Can't leave Chong Qui open from 3 😮 https://t.co/3LsuuCaVEt

It was a very different style between the two teams in the first half.

Damian Chong Qui remained a key player as the game continued, making a significant impact whether he was shooting or passing.

Bleacher Report CBB @br_CBB

Can't leave Chong Qui open from 3 😮 https://t.co/3LsuuCaVEt

Daniel Oyefusi @DanielOyefusi

Man Chong Qui is making some great passes every time Texas Southern traps him in the halfcourt. Mount St. Mary's on a 8-0 run to retake the lead.

Rich Hollenberg @RichOnSports

Gimme Damion Chong Qui vs the Field when it comes to late clock/crunch time possessions. Smallest dude on the floor did it again for @MountHoops #MarchMadness

The guard led the team with 14 points, but he shot just 4-of-14 from the field.

This was a problem throughout the lineup as the Mountaineers finished 6-of-22 from three-point range. The inability to find the bottom of the net caused the lead to quickly evaporate in the second half.

It eventually meant Mount St. Mary's would be watching the rest of the tournament from home.


What's Next?

Texas Southern now has just one day to prepare for top-seeded Michigan as the teams face off in the round of 64 Saturday at 3 p.m. ET.