Texas Southern clinches NCAA berth with 78-73 winTexas Southern's Aaric Murray (24) goes up for a shot as Prairie View A&M's Rasi Jenkins (22) and Demondre Chapman, right, defend during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the championship of the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament Saturday, March 15, 2014, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
HOUSTON (AP) -- Down seven at halftime on Saturday, Texas Southern coach Mike Davis had one message for his players.
A year after being unable to make the NCAA tournament because of NCAA sanctions, Texas Southern went on a 13-2 run after the half en route a 78-73 win over Prairie View to clinch the SWAC title and the school's fifth tournament bid.
''The first half we played excited, not nervous, excited,'' Davis said. ''I was relaxed from the standpoint of our talent, but I was disappointed in some of our effort some of our guys were very excited to be in the position to go to the tournament. I told the guys to relax and to settle down.''
Aaric Murray had 27 points and 10 rebounds to lead Texas Southern (19-14).
''I think I owed it to them,'' Murray said of his teammates. ''I was riding them the last six or seven games when I couldn't score and teams were triple-and-doubling me. I would kick the ball to them and they would make plays.''
The Panthers (11-23), who were led by 19 points from junior guard Montreal Scott, rallied down the stretch.
Demondre Chapman drove to the basket and dunked to bring the Panthers within five at 70-65 with a couple of minutes to go.
Murray's block with 40 seconds to go sealed the victory.
Louis Munks scored seven points to lead the Panthers to an 11-4 lead.
As the half went on, Munks teammates joined in as Prairie View shot 55 percent from the field in the first half. Sharp shooting and five early turnovers from Texas Southern kept the Panthers in the lead.
The Tigers had a response, led by Murray.
Helping Murray was Gibbs, who sparked the Tigers early with assists and by driving to the hoop when the Tigers offense sputtered.
Munks and Murray traded field goals down the stretch and Prairie View led 38-31 at the half.
The Tigers hit four of their first five shots in a 13-2 run in the second half to take their first lead of the game when Murray hit two free throws for a lead the Tigers would never give up.
''(Getting off to a fast start) was really important for the standpoint of relaxing our guys,'' Davis said. ''I knew once we got the lead it was going to be very difficult for us not to win the game if we made our free throws.''
Texas Southern made 22 of 27 free throws as part of its strong second half to seal the game.
The Panthers started the second half by hitting just three of their first 12 shots.
''Legs, I think it was legs,'' said Prairie View coach Byron Rimm II when asked what the difference was for his team that was playing their fourth game in five days.
''The guys were so amped up for this TSU game. ... To play four games in five days I don't think many teams can do that. We fought were right there and I'm very proud of them.''