Previously winless Texas Southern stunned No. 20 Florida 69-54 on Monday night behind PJ Henry’s 16 points and Joirdon Karl Nicholas’ perfect shooting performance.
Texas Southern became the first Southwestern Athletic Conference team to beat a ranked SEC program in The Associated Press poll era dating to 1936, ESPN Stats & Info said. Ranked SEC teams had been 51-0 against SWAC opponents.
It was the Gators’ first loss in 27 games against teams from the SWAC.
Nicholas finished with 14 points on 7-for-7 shooting. John Walker chipped in 13 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the Tigers, an NCAA Tournament team last season that opened this campaign with seven straight losses during a cross-country road trip that included stops at Oregon, Washington and North Carolina State.
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The Tigers were coming off a 27-point loss at Louisiana Tech and catching a Florida team trying to rebound from its first loss. But the Gators (6-2) had no answer for Texas Southern’s talent and athleticism.
The Tigers, 23 1/2-point underdogs, continuously beat Florida’s press despite 22 turnovers and got open looks everywhere. They made most of the them, shooting 54.4% from the field and 45.5% from 3-point range. They also outrebounded Florida 46-23 and outscored the Gators 42-26 in the paint.
It was a damning loss for Florida coach Mike White, who revamped his roster with four transfers and was off to his best start in seven seasons. The Gators ended that with a loss at Oklahoma last Wednesday.
Florida struggled all night, shooting 38.2% from the field and hitting 5 of 24 from 3-point range.
Brandon McKissic led the Gators with 15 points.
Texas Southern is led by former LSU coach Johnny Jones, who evened his record against White at 2-2.
Texas Southern: The Tigers were picked to win the SWAC and return to the NCAA Tournament. But no one expected this outcome, especially since they have played so many consecutive games on the road.
Florida: This is a new low for White, who got a contract extension in the spring. The Gators have made each of the four NCAA Tournaments and have high hopes for this rebuilt team. But this outing will temper those for sure.
Florida likely will drop out of the AP Top 25 poll after a humbling home loss.
Florida center Jason Jitoboh sat out the game because of a coach’s decision.
Texas Southern: Plays at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley on Dec. 14.
Florida: Returns to its home court Wednesday night against North Florida.