ASU men climb to fourth in SWAC basketball standings

Josh Freelove scored 19 points and Phillip Crawford just missed another double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds to help the Alabama State men’s basketball team to a 66-58 win on the road at Alcorn State.

The win helped the Hornets even their Southwestern Athletic Conference record at 7-7 with four regular-season games remaining. ASU has a two-game lead over Alabama A&M for the sixth seed in the upcoming conference tournament.

Texas Southern, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Mississippi Valley State are ineligible for the conference tournament in Garland, Texas, juggling the tournament into a seven-seed event that pits the winner of the game between the sixth and seventh seeds against the top seed.

Southern (13-2) has wrapped up the top seed and Grambling (0-14) has wrapped up the seventh seed.

The Hornets are currently in fourth place in the standings but would have the second seed in the tournament because both Texas Southern (12-2) and Arkansas-Pine Bluff (12-3) are ineligible. The Hornets are now a half-game ahead of Alcorn and one game ahead of Prairie View, which visits the Acadome on Saturday, and Jackson State, which hosts the Hornets on Feb. 28.

In Monday’s game, the Hornets bounced back from a road loss at Southern two days earlier with an impressive performance against the Braves, surviving a technical foul in the final minutes that almost proved costly.

“We had control of the game and then (Shawntez) Patterson drew the foul and the tech also,” ASU coach Lewis Jackson said. “In addition to them getting four free throws, Patterson also picked up his fourth and fifth foul and he was out of the game after just hitting a big 3 for us. They went on a run and we got stagnant, but we showed the poise that we needed to show and bounced back.”

Leading just 54-52 with 3:10 left, Luther Page had an offensive rebound and putback to trigger a 12-4 run that gave the Hornets the victory. The Hornets hit 9 of 16 free throws in the first 38 minutes, but 7 of 10 in the last two minutes to secure the win.

“We look to get Freelove going and to hone in on his shot because he is a good shooter and a slasher as well, and then to get Luther playing well and to get him going was good to see,” Jackson said. “Phillip and Jamel (Waters, who had 13 points) also got going and I thought Jamel played a good game. We need guys to step up as everyone is trying to get position for the conference tournament so this is a good road win for us.”

The Hornets will honor their six seniors on Senior Night Saturday against Prairie View A&M. Tipoff is 5 p.m.