They took turns climbing the ladder to cut a piece of the basketball net.

As Aaric Murray stood on the next-to-last step, with scissors in hand to cut the final piece, he summed up the emotion Saturday afternoon.

"We're going dancing," Murray yelled.

Yes, after more than a decade, Texas Southern is heading back to the NCAA Tournament.

Murray had 27 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks to lead the Tigers to their first NCAA appearance since 2003 with a 78-73 victory over rival Prairie View A&M in the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament final at Toyota Center.

Mike Davis, the Tigers' second-year coach, will be taking his third team to the NCAA Tournament when TSU (19-14) opens the first round with a play-in game either Tuesday or Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio.

"We all wanted it bad," said Murray, the SWAC's regular-season player of the year who was named tournament MVP.

TSU, the tournament's No. 2 seed, was down 13 points in the first half, by seven at halftime and nine during the opening minute of the second half.

TSU missed 13 of its first 15 shots in the game, including 10 in a row, to fall behind early to the eighth-seeded Panthers.

The Tigers overcame a 40-31 deficit by going on a 13-0 run during a four-minute span to take their first lead since the opening minutes of the game.

"I was relaxed from the standpoint of our talent," Davis said of trailing at halftime. "I was disappointed in some of our effort. I knew we had the better team.

"Our team was so excited to be in the position to go to the (NCAA) Tournament, so the first half I thought we played excited. Not nervous, but excited. At halftime I told them to settle down and relax."

Murray, a 6-10 center, gave the Tigers the lead for good on a jumper with 12:59 remaining. He made 8-of-13 shot in the game and was 10-of-10 from the free-throw line.

"I knew once we got the lead it was going to be very difficult for us not to win the game if we made our free throws," Davis said.

TSU shot 65 percent in the second half, building its biggest lead, 68-57, on a 3-pointer by Lawrence Johnson-Danner with 5:03 remaining.

Prairie View A&M pulled within 70-65 on a dunk by Demondre Chapman with two minutes remaining.

But the Tigers were clutch down the stretch making 12-of-14 free throws to pull away.

Murray put the final touches on the win with a pair of spectacular blocks on one possession with less than 30 seconds remaining.

Madarious Gibbs had 15 points and Jose Rodriguez added 13 off the bench for TSU, which last NCAA appearance was a 92-84 loss to UNC-Ashville in 2003.

A year ago, TSU won the SWAC regular-season title but unable to compete in the tournament because of a one-year NCAA postseason ban. This time around, the Tigers won three straight games and will take a nine-game winning streak into their fifth NCAA appearance in school history.