To get an idea of the athleticism of Texas Southern's basketball team, look no farther than starting forward Derrick Griffin.
The 6-7, 225-pounder was the SWAC player of the year last season as a freshman and also the conference's defensive player of the year. He also caught a conference-leading 11 touchdown passes on the football field for the Tigers. Before Saturday's game at La Salle's Tom Gola Arena, he put on a dunking display usually seen at all-star weekends in the NBA.
With all its athletes but an unwillingness to play team basketball, Texas Southern is a group that could challenge anyone in the country some days and be its own worst enemy on others. The Tigers were both Saturday, saving their best for last, though, as Dulani Robinson drilled a three-pointer from the top of the circle at the buzzer to give the Tigers a 77-76 win over the Explorers (1-2).
The quickness, speed, and toughness of TSU (3-1) stunned the Explorers early, as the Tigers jumped to a 23-10 lead with 10 minutes, 26 seconds left in the first half. But John Giannini's squad adapted to the tempo, used TSU's aggressiveness against it and went on a 25-11 run to end the half, which set up the back and forth final 20 minutes.
Trailing, 68-65, the Explorers scored nine of the game's next 10 points to forge ahead by 74-69. After a Zach Lofton layup cut the lead to three, La Salle seemed ready to put the game away with 40 seconds left as the lane opened wide for Pookie Powell and the 6-0 guard drove uncontested to the basket. Instead of taking the easy two, however, the sophomore missed a dunk attempt. Lofton then hit a layup and Powell two free throws with 7.7 left.
La Salle purposely fouled TSU's Kevin Scott, who made one of two with 5.5 to go to make it 76-74. After a missed free throw by Demetrius Henry, Robinson became the hero.
"That is a crushing loss," Giannini said. "They deserved to win. Texas Southern shot 56 percent [in the second half]. They outrebounded us [35-25]. In the first half we had some good players play atrocious defense. Pookie's missed dunk would have iced the game.
"It's just a crushing loss. I'm disappointed in our individual defense, just like last game. We had a layup to win the game and we tried a dunk and we missed it."
B.J. Johnson led La Salle with 24 points, while Cleon Roberts made all six of his shots, including four threes, to add 16. Leading scorer Jordan Price, who entered the game averaging 18.5 per, was held to eight points on 2-of-10 shooting.