Prairie View A&M 69, Alabama State 67 Panthers remain all alone at top in SWAC
PRAIRIE VIEW — Remaining unbeaten in Southwestern Athletic Conference play didn’t come easy for Prairie View A&M on Monday night.
The Panthers had to hang on for a 69-67 victory over Alabama State in a matchup of the league’s top two teams. And both teams played like it.
Prairie View won the game with top scorer Gary Blackston struggling from the field and finishing with only one point. And the Panthers had to fight off the Hornets, who were a force on the offensive boards.
First-place Prairie View (11-11, 9-0 SWAC) ran its win streak to 10 games with the win.
Reginald Gee’s 3-pointer put Alabama State up 60-59 with 2:06 remaining, but PV responded with Dennis Jones’ 3-pointer to give the Panthers a 62-60 lead.
Prairie View A&M never trailed after Jones’ trey, but there were some uncomfortable moments for the Panthers.
Gee was called for a charge on Jones with 9.3 seconds remaining with PV clinging to a 67-65 lead. Taishaun Johnson made two free throws with 8.2 seconds left to give the Panthers a little breathing room and a 69-65 lead.
Alabama State (8-12, 6-3) outrebounded Prairie View 45-35, and the Hornets enjoyed a 21-13 edge on the offensive boards. Alabama State collected 11 offensive rebounds in the game’s first 14 minutes.
The Panthers now head into Saturday’s road game against rival Texas Southern with plenty of momentum.
Gerard Andrus scored 14 points for Prairie View, and Antione Lister added 13 points. Jones finished with nine. Jacoby Ross scored 19 points for the Hornets.
Alabama State jumped out to a 5-1 lead before Prairie View found its rhythm, taking a 36-30 lead at the break. The Panthers’ largest first-half lead was eight points at 36-28 after Chancellor Ellis’ 3-pointer with 28 seconds remaining.
The Panthers, who led 36-30 at halftime, lost their advantage midway through the second half, but two free throws by Darius Williams put PV back up 50-49 with 8:01 remaining.
Blackston, the reigning SWAC Player of the Week, picked up two early fouls and had a sub-par shooting performance. The 6-2 senior guard, second in the SWAC in scoring (16.2), was scoreless in the first half in 13 minutes of play, missing all four of his shots from the field.
Alabama State also struggled with its shooting, making 22 of 61 shots and connecting on only four of 23 of its 3-point attempts.
Coach Byron Smith has blended in eight newcomers to make the Panthers a team on the rise. Prairie View has not lost since Dec. 29 — a 76-62 setback at Winthrop. Dating to last season, the Panthers have won 13 consecutive league games and 19 of their last 21 in the SWAC. All 13 of Prairie View’s non-conference opponents had a .500 or better record at the end of December for a combined 113-54 mark.