CLINTON – Mississippi Gulf Coast saw a big halftime lead quickly evaporate, but the Bulldogs took care of business down the stretch to beat Southern-Shreveport 88-81 in the first round of the Region 23 Tournament.
Gulf Coast (19-6) returns to action at the A.E. Wood Coliseum on the Mississippi College campus Thursday at 5:30 p.m. against Northeast.
"I have no excuse, no idea, no concept what went on that first 10, 12 minutes (of the second half)," Gulf Coast coach Wendell Weathers said. "I told them what Southern would do, they would run the ball to the rim and raise the tempo. We had to play defense and rebound. We didn't. "
Davion Cole-Johnson (6-4, 210, So., Pike/Glen Ellyn, Ill.) led Gulf Coast with 28 points.
"I just don't want to go home," Cole-Johnson said. "I want that trip to Kansas. That's all it is."
Gulf Coast led by 14 at intermission,
"We just rebounded real well and our defense was on point," Cole-Johnson said. "Our rebounding led to our offense."
Shreveport (14-9) erupted on an 18-4 run in the first 6:16 of the second half to tie the score at 60.
"In the second half, they started jamming things up," Weathers said. "We tried to play too quick, in a hurry. We just kinda got frustrated with ourselves."
The lead seesawed until the last two minutes. The Bulldogs broke out a press that stymied Shreveport, then made 12 of 14 free throws to pull away.
Gulf Coast scored 12 of the last 16 points in the game and made 84.4 percent (38-for-45) of its free throws for the game.
"It just kind of snowballed on us," Weathers said. "Fortunately we maintained composure came back and stayed with our offense. We shot free throws down the stretch."
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