Alcorn State won the SWAC regular season title and second-year head coach Landon Bussie was named Coach of The Year earlier this week.
The coach and his team were tested in Wednesday evening’s SWAC Tournament quarterfinals but they came out on top. The Braves (16-15) trailed for much of the game but found a way to force overtime and come up with a 64-63 win over Prairie View A&M to advance to the semifinals on Friday.
After the game, an emotional Bussie talked about his team’s resilience as it faced elimination.
“I’m just so excited that our season continues,” Bussie said in the postgame interview, fighting back tears. “I just didn’t want it to end like this.” Alcorn State won the regular season title and is the tournament’s top seed for the first time in 20 years.
Prairie View held a six-point lead at 54-48 with 2:28 remaining but Alcorn State locked down on defense and shut out the Panthers down the stretch. Alcorn’s Dominic Brewton hit a 3-pointer with four seconds remaining to force overtime with the teams tied at 54.
“It saved our season,” Bussie said.
Alcorn State finds a way
Despite his team being the top seed in the conference, the former Prairie View assistant knew it was in for a dogfight to open the SWAC Tournament. He said he expected everything his team got on Wednesday night from his former team.
“We knew coming in it was gonna come down to the last possession,” Bussie said. “We knew that they wasn’t going to lay down. We knew we wasn’t going to lay down. But I was very confident in my guys that when it gets tough and it gets thick, they are going to battle, they are going to find a way.”
And that’s just what the Braves did in overtime. The two teams traded the lead, neither getting ahead by more than three in the extra period. It came down to free throws as Jeremiah Gambrell tied the game at 63 for the Panthers with his first free throw but missed the second with :49 seconds remaining.
Alcorn State’s Justin Thomas was fouled with just one second left. He hit the first of two free throws to give his team the lead and seal the game.
Alcorn State advances
Gambrell scored a game-high 20 points to go with two blocks and two steals for Prairie View. DeWayne Cox added 16 points and six steals while Jawaun Daniels put up 12 points and pulled down 16 rebounds. Prairie View turned the ball over 27 times, leading to 22 Alcorn State points.
Byron Joshua and Darrious Agnew led the way with 13 points each for Alcorn State, who struggled to put the ball in the basket in every way. It shot 29.7 percent from the field, 22.2 percent from the 3-point line and 50 percent from the free throw line but still managed to win.
Alcorn State advances to take on the winner of Thursday’s Alabama A&M-Florida A&M game on Friday night in one SWAC Tournament semifinal.