The first month of the 2014-15 season did not go well for the Southern men’s basketball team after dropping seven of nine contests, but it will have to find a way to right the ship before Sunday night when it faces No. 14 Iowa State on the road.
Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. at the Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.
The Cyclones (7-1) are only the latest squad in what turned out to be a brutal pre-conference schedule for the Jaguars that includes 10 road games before finally settling down with Prairie View A&M on Jan. 3 at home to open Southwestern Athletic Conference play.
Southern coach Roman Banks has remained optimistic throughout the tough schedule, despite his team suffering double-digit losses to Ole Miss (69-38), Middle Tennessee State (66-48) and Tulane (74-59) during the stretch.
Banks consistently maintained he thinks his team is going through growing pains after several key players from last season’s team decided to transfer and that the Jaguars will continue to improve as the season progresses.
But after an 85-57 loss to Minnesota last week which saw the Jaguars shoot a dismal 40 percent from the field — its fourth lowest percentage of the season — the Jaguars show they still have plenty of work ahead of them.
One of the biggest issues for Southern this season has been finding a cohesive starting lineup, which Banks expressed as one of the most immediate concerns for the team after the Jaguars’ 68-55 win against Dillard at home two weeks ago.
Banks said the Jaguars have a tendency to fall behind early before players like senior guard Tre Lynch can come off the bench to provide a slight spark. But even with a boost from fresh legs, Southern still can’t manage to fight back from an early deficit.
The Jaguars have been outscored in the first half 319-233, while the second-half shrinks to 293-291 in favor of Southern’s opponents.
Banks said he’s been considering moving Lynch into the starting lineup since his return from a preseason ankle injury in the hopes of taking his team-leading 12.8 points per game off the bench.
Lynch isn’t the only Jaguar to have found success in a reserve role. Freshman forward Jarred Sam currently leads the program with 39 rebounds while his 19 minutes per game ranks sixth on the team.
Sam received two starts in his first nine games with Southern, while Lynch has come off the bench in all of his appearances since returning from injury.
No matter who starts, Southern will meet a white-hot Iowa State program who is in its school-record 23rd consecutive week ranked in the Associatged Press Top 25.
The Cyclones have never lost to a SWAC team, including two wins against Southern. Iowa State most recently beat the Jaguars 82-59 in the 2012 season opener.