Duke hogged most of the headlines on college basketball’s opening night by pummeling No. 2 Kentucky 118-84 on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Texas Southern, a 20- to 25-point underdog according to oddsmakers, rallied from a 17-point deficit to knock off Baylor on the road. The upset made little noise nationally, but it resonated in Spokane.
Gonzaga, which could face Duke on the final day of the Maui Invitational, entertains Texas Southern on Saturday, a game that many had probably dismissed as a mismatch.
It was a big win for the Tigers and first-year coach Johnny Jones. They ended Baylor’s 56-0 record against Southwestern Athletic Conference programs and the Bears’ 45-game streak of home wins over unranked opposition.
“I’m thrilled and excited for our team, our program and our school,” said Jones, who assisted at Nevada last year after five years as head coach at LSU. “To see our players, who have worked so hard to have some success have that work pay off, it was a lesson learned that regardless of the deficit we were able to fix some of the things that were going on.”
There was an emotional aspect as well. Assistant coach Randy Peele fell ill in practice last Friday and had triple bypass surgery on Tuesday.
“He’s going to be down for a while,” Jones said. “We hope people keep him in their prayers.
“I teased him that he would do anything to get out of playing Baylor and Gonzaga. He said he’d gladly trade places with me.”
Jones has assembled an interesting roster, bringing in his former LSU point guard, Jalyn Patterson, as a graduate transfer, and forward Jeremy Combs, who wasn’t coached by Jones but played at North Texas and LSU, two of Jones’ head coaching stops.
TSU returns 7-foot-2 center Trayvon Reed and guard Derrick Bruce, both of whom started against Gonzaga in a 97-69 loss last November.
Patterson missed last season with an injury. His first game back was memorable. He scored the Tigers’ last eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers in the final minute, to take down Baylor.
Patterson finished with 23 points and six assists.
“At LSU, he had some great nights when he had to step up and other nights he didn’t have to score,” Jones said. “But he’s been really good taking care of the ball and creating opportunities for teammates. He’s extremely unselfish, but when the moment calls for it, he was able to step up and make huge plays.”
Patterson played in the backcourt at Montverde Academy in Florida alongside Ben Simmons. GU freshman forward Filip Petrusev is a Montverde product.
Texas Southern has upcoming games against Iowa State, San Diego State, Oregon, Arizona State, Georgia and Texas A&M. That’s daunting but not quite as loaded as the schedules put together by former coach Mike Davis, who left for Detroit Mercy. TSU went 0-13 – all on the road – in the nonconference last year but won the SWAC and earned the program’s first NCAA Tournament win with a victory over North Carolina Central in the First Four.
“We formed our schedule where we have a couple of opportunities for our fan base to watch us play before conference begins in early January,” Jones said. “We’re going to play a couple of games on the road where we might have the opportunity for a home-and-home.”
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