Two months ago, the Southern Jaguars needed a major defensive effort to take a win from the Prairie View A&M Panthers in a minor SWAC regular season matchup. In the conference title game, with an automatic NCAA Tournament bid on the line, Southern needed a similar effort on a much bigger stage.
Facing a surprisingly competitive team, Southern needed a last-second stand to beat Prairie View A&M, 45-44, in the SWAC tournament finals Saturday.
With both teams struggling badly on offense, Southern's ability to get to the free throw line and capitalize was huge. The Jaguars knocked down 14 of its 19 attempts from the charity stripe.
Derick Beltran was the only player to score in double digits for Southern with 13, but six different players scored six points or more. Malcolm Miller made just one shot coming off the bench, but still finished the game with six points, nine rebounds and two steals.
Jourdan DeMuynck was extremely inconsistent for Prairie View A&M, but his effort late in the first half was huge in keeping the game close. After starting the game 0-of-4 with two turnovers, DeMuynck knocked down a free throw and found his shooting stroke, scoring 12 straight points for the Panthers over a roughly 12-minute span.
Continuing his streaky ways, DeMuynck went quiet from then on. After hitting a three less than a minute into the second half, he would go on to shoot 1-of-5 from the field with four more turnovers. Overall, DeMuynck finished 6-of-16 with 15 points, nine rebounds and seven turnovers.
DeMuynck's scoring burst reflected how much his teammates struggled in the middle of the game, however. During a 19-minute period extending through both halves, Demuynck was the only Prairie View A&M player to score. Somehow, Southern never expanded its lead to more than five points during that stretch.
The Jaguars were able to pull away in the end, though. After a Demuynck free throw tied the game with just over four minutes left in regulation, Southern raced out to a seven-point lead. Prairie View came back to trim the lead to one and got a fast break in the final seconds with a chance to win, but the ball was fumbled and a shot never went up.
Southern will be appearing in its eighth NCAA Tournament, and its first since 2006.