The Tigers have had no trouble this season with the tightly contested battles, but a glance of the SWAC men’s basketball stats shows that Texas Southern’s two league stumbles are by double digits. Message going into this week’s Southwestern Athletic Conference men’s basketball tournament in Garland, Texas: Better get out in front of TSU early, and often. They win the close ones.
Oh, and better be ready to play defense: Texas Southern brings the most honored, and perhaps the most explosive, men’s group in the league — starting with SWAC player of the year Travele Jones. The forward, who got the preseason nod for POY, averaged a team-best 17.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per league match. Elsewhere, guard Kevin Galloway (a SWAC-best 6.2 assists per game, seventh in the nation) was named conference newcomer of the year. A dual-threat, Galloway averaged 11.4 points and 7.7 rebounds in conference play, all while leading the SWAC in steals. Fellow guard Lawrence Johnson-Danner (13.2 points per game; 40 percent from downtown; a league-best 85.7 free-throw percent) was named freshman of the year. Forward Travele Jones ended up with 15.3 points per SWAC game this year, No. 2 in the conference.
That impressive production — the Tigers boast a 44 percent field-goal percentage, also second best in SWAC games — propelled Texas Southern to its first regular-season SWAC title since 1998, and ensured a postseason berth, whatever happens in Garland. All conference regular-season champions now earn NIT invites.
The good news continued for Texas Southern when the league tournament pairings were announced: Tonight’s opponent is win-by-committee Arkansas-Pine Bluff, a team with no All-SWAC performers that barely made the postseason.