Unlike Jacksons State of 2010 and Texas Southern of 2011, the top- seeded Mississippi Valley entered the SWAC tournament as favorites and did not disappoint.
If you never seen the Delta Devils in the Big Dance before, you will see it in this year’s NCAA tournament. Kevin Burwell scored 19 points to lead the Delta Devils in another tough match up against Texas Southern to take the SWAC title, 71-69. MVSU advanced to the Big Dance for the first time since 2008.
Mississippi Valley captured their fifth March Madness bid in school history by defeating TSU for the third time this season. Like the previous two matchups before, the third time was a battle.
“All three games were close so I can’t say we got their number, but I can say we played a whole 40 minutes,” said Paul Crobsy, SWAC’s player of the year who finished with six points and five rebounds. “When it came down to it, we made the plays at the end to win the game and unfortunately, they didn’t, but I tip my hat to them. They played hard.”
The Delta Devils (21-12) controlled the entire game, as it quickly took a 10-3 lead with in the first five minutes and they never looked back. Though TSU (15-18) made numerous runs throughout the game, they never led.
At the 11:27 mark with the score 14-9, Omar Strong was fouled on a 3-point attempt. After Strong converted on all three free throws, Valley then went on a 9-5 run to close out the half, including a breakaway dunk by William Pugh that essentially changed the game. After Pugh dunk over Madarious Gibbs the game became more physical and intense. On the Tigers ensuing play, a frustrated Strong sparked a mini riot between the two teams resulting in both teams getting technical fouls. Texas Southern turned the ball over 17 times in the first half as they trailed by nine with a score of 26-17.
TSU opened the second half with a three pointer from Gibbs, and following a made free throw by MSVU Amos Studivant, D’Angelo Scott tightened the score to 27-22 at the 17 minute mark. The Delta Devils then piled up points on the Tigers; they would lead the game by as much as 20 with only 8:12 remaining in the game.
With the score 55-35 initially, you would get the notion that the game is over, but Texas Southern made a run late in the second half behind Strong’s seven second half 3-pointers. Strong, who led the game with 30 points, made six three point field goals after trailing by 20.
Texas Southern outscored Mississippi Valley 52-45 in the second half while shooting 64 percent and with 1:31 remaining TSU trailed 67-59. Gibbs connected on two consecutive three- pointers that made the score 67-64 with 55 seconds left, but a corner three by Brent Arrington secured the victory for Mississippi Valley.
“I’m proud of my team and I’m real quick to say ‘hey listen, we didn’t do this or we didn’t do that,’” said Tony Harvey, head coach of Texas Southern. “We never stopped fighting. I don’t have no (any) reason to stick my head down.”
Dexter Ellington scored a layup then Cor-J Cox, who finished with nine points, eight rebounds and was named tournament MVP, was sent to the line where he made one of two free throws that made it 70-66. Strong made his last three of the season with two seconds left and after that the Delta Devils was crowned SWAC champs. Mississippi Valley will play Western Kentucky Tuesday night for the right to play #1 seed Kentucky in the South regional bracket of the 2012 NCAA Division I March Madness tournament.