North Carolina Central will leave Dayton once again still searching for the school's first NCAA Tournament win. The Eagles were defeated by Texas Southern, 64-46, on Wednesday night as part of the First Four games.
The Tigers advance to play Xavier, the No. 1 seed in the West, on Friday in Nashville. The Eagles (19-16) will return to Durham 0-3 in NCAA Tournament appearances.
"Hats off to Texas Southern," said N.C. Central head coach LeVelle Moton. "We knew what we were facing. They are a more talented team than us, they are older than us and we knew regardless of our effort that we were going to have to play old tonight. We had some mental breakdowns. We didn't give our best shot. We fell short tonight, we were outplayed, outcoached. They (Texas Southern) have been here before, they are an older group and Mike (Davis) does a great job with those young men."
On the national stage once again, it was too much Damontra Jefferson and Donte Clark for the Tigers, and not enough help around N.C. Central junior center Raasean Davis for the Eagles to advance.
Raasean Davis led N.C. Central with a team-high 19 points and 11 rebounds. But the Tigers figured out early to double- or triple-team the 6-9 Davis, and make everyone else hurt them. On this night, the rest of the Eagles' offense was missing in action as the Tigers' Jefferson scored a game-high 25 points and got plenty of help from Clark, who added 18 points.
At one point late in the second half, already trailing by double-digits, the Eagles missed eight shots from the field. The Tigers didn't do much better, but with a 20-point lead it didn't matter.
Down 10 at the break, N.C. Central started the second half with two turnovers, and was 2-for-5 from the field in the first five minutes. The Eagles pulled to within seven, 37-30, but were outscored 11-2 over the next five minutes.
As much as Davis dominated the first half, he was held to three points after the intermission, and only took one shot after halftime. Mike Davis said he didn't want the Eagles' 3-point shooters to hurt them, so he doubled off the non shooters, which led to some easy baskets early on from Davis. But the veteran coach of the Tigers figured the big man would get tired as the game went on.
"The NCAA Tournament is a different feel," Mike Davis said. "Your body is not used to playing at that high level the whole game, and so we figured in the second half he'll be a little tired and he was, I think."
Raasean Davis said fatigue wasn't an issue, but without his scoring, the Eagles didn't stand a chance. The rest of the team went a combined 12-for-58 from the floor. Point guard Jordan Perkins said he tried to get Davis and other teammates the ball, but Texas Southern wasn't having it.
If N.C. Central had any jitters because of the big stage, it definitely didn't show early. The Eagles jumped out to a 4-0 lead, but TSU stayed within striking distance, never trailing by more than four points. The Tigers tied the game at 10 while the Eagles missed four straight baskets after taking a 10-6 lead.
Over the next four minutes, the Tigers would outscore the Eagles 10-6, taking their first lead, 12-10, on a dunk by 7-2 center Trayvon Reed. The Tigers would lead the rest of the half, gaining more confidence with each made basket.
The biggest play of the stretch came when Jefferson missed a wide open three, grabbed his own miss and scored a layup while drawing a foul. The 5-7 Jefferson completed the old-fashioned three-point play to put the Tigers up five. N.C. Central would get three consecutive baskets from Davis to remain within four, but the Tigers would pull away, going up 10, 36-26, by the break.
Davis was a one-man show for the Eagles in the first half, scoring 16 of their 26 points, and 14 of the first 20.
For the first time this season, N.C. Central didn't make a 3-pointer, going 0-for-14 against the Tigers. It was the first time the Eagles went without a 3-pointer since Nov. 15, 2012, against Southern in the Global Sports Showcase, though the Eagles won that game 59-55.
The 46 points scored by the Eagles was their lowest point total out of their three NCAA tournament trips. It was also the fewest points they have scored since scoring 40 in the season-opener versus Clemson in 2015.
North Carolina Central falls to 4-3 versus the SWAC. This was the first NCAA Tournament win for Texas Southern in the team's fourth trip.
"It's bigger than us, this is for the University," Jefferson said about the first victory for an HBCU in the NCAA Tournament.