After its first trip to the NCAA tournament in four seasons, Southern saw an end to its season with a 59-55 loss to Holy Cross in the First Four matchup in Dayton, Ohio on Wednesday.
The Crusaders held the SWAC conference's best three-point shooting team to just three, three-point field goals made, tying the Jags’ lowest mark this season.
Holy Cross won its first NCAA tournament game since 1953 by keeping Southern's offense off-balance with its 1-3-1 defensive scheme. The Jags shot just 36.4 from the field.
"I think the short turnaround, especially to prepare for that is pretty hard the way they played," said SU head coach Roman Banks. "They rotate a little differently."
Holy Cross jumped out to a 20-9 lead midway through the first half and led by as many as 12 points with 3:51 left in the first half.
"Early on, they set the tone. I thought they came out of the gates with a lot of energy and executed very well. It took us a little time to find our rhythm," Banks explained.
"Tonight, they hit two big threes on what was our mistakes, not on what they done," Southern senior guard Christopher Hyder said. "It was our mistakes that cost us the game."
Despite shooting struggles on the neutral court and a season-low in points scored in a half, the Jags went on a 9-2 run and entered the locker room down just 27-22.
Two quick turnovers marked the start of the second half, but shortly after, Southern’s leading scorer, senior guard Adrian Rodgers, accounted for seven points (en route to a team-high 14 points on 6-18 shooting) and helped the Jags take their first lead of the game with 16:27 to go.
"Started attacking the gaps," Rodgers said. "We felt we weren't doing that enough in the first half. So, started attacking the gaps and that really just opened up the zone."
Eight minutes later, the Jags found themselves with a four-point lead, their largest of the game but the Crusaders outscored the Jaguars 7-3 in the final 55 seconds, ending Southern's tournament run.
"It's kind of what I thought in my mind about how it would play out on the offensive end, but it was disappointing the way it played out on the defensive end, because that's where I thought we would have our advantage," Banks added.
Southern finished the season with a 22-13 record.
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