SALT LAKE CITY (AP)With the nation watching, Grambling State and Southern put on a show for the SWAC on Saturday.
Shawndarius Cowart scored 18 points to lead Grambling State to a 69-64 overtime victory over Southern in the NBA HBCU Classic.
The game was part of the NBA All-Star events in Salt Lake City. The nationally televised game preceded All-Star Saturday night’s lineup featuring the NBA’s dunk contest, 3-point shootout and skills competition.
”It’s basically a recruiting tool for national exposure for us,” Grambling State coach Donte’ Jackson said.
Both schools were thrilled to get a national spotlight shined on their teams and their league, the SWAC. Increased national exposure is going hand-in-hand with an uptick in talent and more competitive results across the league.
”The NBA has given us this platform, but this isn’t the end,” Southern coach Sean Woods said. ”We’re getting more TV exposure, so you’re starting to see really big time games. And with the transfer portal now, we’re getting transfers coming in from Power 5 schools. The talent pool is rising in our league. ”
Cowart went 9 of 13 from the field to pace the Tigers (18-8, 11-3 SWAC) to their fifth consecutive victory. Jourdan Smith added 14 points and nine rebounds. Carte’Are Gordon chipped in 14 points and seven boards.
Grambling State forced 16 turnovers and blocked nine shots.
Brion Whitley scored 13 points for Southern and Terrell Williams, Jr. added 12 points. Bryson Etienne chipped in 10 points and seven rebounds. The Jaguars (13-14, 9-4) outrebounded Grambling State 47-38, but shot just 31% from the field.
Grambling State took the lead for good on Gordon’s layup with 2:04 left in overtime. Tramichael Moton converted a three-point play with 19.8 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
Southern erased a 14-point deficit behind a 19-3 run late in the second half. Whitley made a go-ahead 3-pointer to give the Jaguars a 62-61 lead with 36 seconds left in regulation.
Gordon hit one of two free throws to tie it up and force overtime.
”Those guys made a lot of different runs and they could have won the game,” Smith said. ”We kept pushing. I feel like I got locked in from the beginning.”
Grambling took the lead before halftime and led throughout much of the second half. The Tigers built a double-digit lead behind a 15-4 run. Jonathan Aku and Cowart finished off the spurt with back-to-back layups, giving Grambling State a 51-37 lead.
Grambling State visits Florida A&M on Saturday
Southern visits Bethune-Cookman on Saturday.
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