HOUSTON (AP) Chris Thomas and Malcolm Riley each scored 23 points as top-seeded Texas Southern cruised past No. 4 seed Prairie View A&M 90-77 Friday night and advanced to the Southwestern Conference tournament championship game, where the Tigers will face Southern.
More importantly, the semifinal-round win allows Texas Southern to claim the conference's automatic berth into the NCAA tournament, regardless of the result of Saturday's conference championship game. Southern, which beat Alabama State in the other semifinal, is ineligible for the NCAA postseason. It will be the second straight trip to the NCAA tournament for the Tigers, who now have won 11 straight.
The NCAA ruled that Southern University submitted inaccurate and incomplete data on student-athlete academic progress and all teams were ruled ineligible for post-season play.
Texas Southern (21-12) built a 12-point lead, 41-29 with three minutes left in the first half but did not score again in the half and Prairie View cut the lead to eight by intermission.
Thomas hit a jumper 11 seconds into the second half and Deverell Biggs knocked down a 3-pointer and the Tigers pushed the lead back to double digits, where it stayed for the final 18 minutes.
Tonnie Collier added 15 points off the Texas Southern bench and Madarious Gibbs, the SWAC Player of the Year, added 14 points with seven assists. Riley pulled down 11 rebounds.
The Tigers were 27 of 58 from the field (46.6 percent), including 6 of 12 from beyond the arc.
Montrael Scott scored 21 points and Tre Hagood added 18 to lead Prairie View (15-18), which shot 51.6 percent from the field (33 of 64), but was just 2 of 16 from 3-point range.
Texas Southern coach Mike Davis, the 2014-15 SWAC Coach of the Year, leads the Tigers in search of a second straight conference tournament championship. Davis, who led Indiana to the NCAA Tournament championship game in his second season in Bloomington, has led three different programs into the tournament. He took Indiana to the tournament four times in his six seasons and took Alabama-Birmingham to the tournament in 2010-11. The Tigers NCAA berth last year was the first for the school in over a decade.
Texas Southern posted a pair of major upsets in December, knocking off No. 25 Michigan State for the school's first win over a ranked opponent since 1994, and a 58-56 win over Kansas State of the Big 12.