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Men’s college basketball: Grambling State advances to NCAA Tournament for first time in school history

by Russell Hedges

By Curtis Ford, Grambling State Associate AD for Athletic Communications

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Top seed Grambling State claimed its first-ever Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament title with a 75-66 victory over No. 3 seed and defending champ Texas Southern Saturday night at Bartow Arena.

The win sends GSU (20-14) to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. Although the Tigers won an NAIA National Championship in 1961, Grambling State has never won the SWAC Tournament since its inception.

Jourdan Smith poured in a team-high 20 points with three rebounds, two blocks, two assists and one steal. Antwan Burnett and Kintavious Dozieralso scored in double-figures for the Tigers, contributing 14 and 10 points. 

The game got off to a frantic pace with both teams countering each other’s punches. After TSU opened the game with a quick basket, Jonathan Akuanswered with a layup. His free throw gave GSU is first lead of the game at 3-2 at the 18:36 mark.

Following a TSU three-pointer, Jourdan Smith stepped up a drained a three of his own, making a 6-5 game. With the game tied 9-9, Aku slammed a thunderous dunk down to put GSU back in front 11-9. 

Tied at 13-13 with 14:01 on the clock, Smith knocked down his second triple of the game, pushing GSU in front 16-13. That bucket was the start of a 17-5 run that stretched Grambling State’s advantage to 30-18 with 6:47 to go until halftime. 

Grambling State grabbed its largest lead of the half, 38-22, after Smith sank a trio of free throws. Antwan Burnett’s trey with 33 seconds left in the half, gave GSU a 41-24 lead heading into halftime.

GSU shot lights out in the opening period, shooting 56.0 percent from the field (14-of-25), including 63.6 percent from behind the arc (7-of-11). Smith led the way with 16 points in the first half after going 4-of-6 from floor, including a perfect 3-of-3 from deep and 5-of-5 at the charity stripe.

Grambling State maintained at least a 13-point cushion for much of the second period, until a pair of free throws by Chris Craig made it a 58-48 game with 8:20 to go. Following a layup by Burnett, TSU’s Jonathan Cisse trimmed GSU’s lead down to nine, 60-51, with a three-pointer. 

Tra’Michael Moton pushed Grambling State’s lead back to 13 points, 68-55, on a driving layup with 4:20 to go. 

TSU could only as close as seven points down the stretch, but the Grambling State prevailed 75-66. 

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

  • Grambling State went 23-of-47 from the floor (48.9 percent), 8-of-19 (42.1 percent) from three-point range and 21-for-31 (67.7 percent) from the free throw line.
  • Texas Southern shot 42.6 percent (23-of-54) and 18.2percent (4-of-22) from behind the arc and 72.7 percent (16-of-22) from the charity stripe.
  • Both teams finished with 29 rebounds each
  • GSU finished with 28 points in the paint, 11 bench points, six fastbreak points, 13 second chance points and 16 points off 11 turnovers. 
  • TSU scored 24 points in the paint, 16 bench points, two fastbreak points and 19 points off 11 turnovers. 

UP NEXT
Grambling State now waits to see who they will face in the 2024 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament during Sunday afternoon’s selection show broadcast on CBS at 5 p.m. CST.

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