DAYTON, Ohio – Robert Champion’s tie-breaking three pointer with 55 seconds left and 19 points proved to be the difference as Holy Cross ended Southern’s season with a 59-55 victory in the First Four on Wednesday night in the UD Arena.
Southern, the champions from the Southwestern Athletic Conference finished the season 22-13 after its first NCAA tournament trip in four years. The Jaguars fell to No. 1 seed Gonzaga during the 2012-13.
Southern’s leading scorer Adrian Rodgers scored just two points in the first half and his team trailed 27-22 at halftime. Early in the second half, he scored seven quick points to give the Jaguars their first lead at 29-28 as the Crusaders went nearly four minutes without a field goal.
Rodgers went to the bench after committing his third foul and Holy Cross opened a 38-33 lead.
That’s when Chris Hyder made his presence felt. Twice he made steals and converted layups to get Southern within a point. Then he made a jumper and passed to Chris Thomas for a layup. Rashad Andrews added a free throw and the Jaguars had their biggest lead at 42-38 as Rodgers returned with 8:42 left.
Champion and Karl Charles made three pointers as the Crusaders regained the lead at 48-46 with three minutes left.
Shawn Prudhomme answered with a three pointer, but Charles made both ends of a one-and-one and Champion made two free throws to give Holy Cross a three-point lead.
Trelun Banks tied it with a three pointer, but Champion answered with a trey of his own with 55 seconds left.
After Prudhomme missed a jumper, Cullen Hamilton made two free throws to give the Crusaders a five-point lead with 27 seconds left.
Rodgers made sanked another three ball with 23 seconds left, but Champion’s two free throws completed the scoring nine seconds later.
Southern’s top two scorers – Rodgers and Banks – both missed time because of two first-half fouls apiece, but the bench provided a lift.
Prudhomme scored seven points, Thomas had three and Rashad Andrews two as Jaguars bench outscored the team’s starters 12-10.
Hyder fed Jared Sam for a layup and he added a steal and a layup as Southern finished the half on a 13-7 run.
Despite scoring a season-low 22 first-half points, the Jaguars trailed by just five points at halftime.
The Patriot League tournament champion Crusaders (15-19) will play No. 1 West regional seed Oregon Friday night in Spokane, Wash.
Southern’s last NCAA Tournament victory came against Georgia Tech in 1993.