As women’s basketball programs go, Southern and Tulane are hardly strangers.
SU coach Sandy Pugh is in her 12th season. Lisa Stockton has been with the Green Wave since 1993. Some of their players faced each other in high school, and just last March, the two teams themselves squared off in the WNIT, where Tulane held the Jaguars to 17-percent shooting in a 61-31 runaway.
Only eight months have passed since then. But if the teams look like they’ve changed quite a bit since then, well, there’s a really good reason for that. They have.
The Jaguars (1-3) face Tulane (7-2) at 2 p.m. in Fogelman Arena with a young, revamped team that’s a little hobbled, a little cold and still searching for an identity as Southern gets set to play its final three nonconference games.
“I think we’ve got what it takes. We’ve got the athletes and the desire,” Pugh said. “Our kids right now, they’re listening. But ... there’s a difference between listening and hearing. Our chemistry is not where it needs to be yet. I think part of that is us having a lot of young kids. But I also think our returnees are still searching for what their roles are going to be.”
If the Jaguars could get a win Saturday, that’d be great. If they show incremental improvement, that’d be great, too. As Pugh sees it, November and December are for solving problems and getting your team prepared for conference play.
One other thing: The Jaguars would love nothing more than to get through a stretch of games without any more injuries.
“We’re just banged up right now,” said Pugh.
Senior point guard Carneta Henderson, who suffered a knee injury late last season, is getting closer to game-ready, but the team doesn’t expect her back until next month, when the Southwestern Athletic Conference schedule begins.
Sophomore Adanna David has suffered a broken hand; she underwent surgery and hopes to return early next month.
Freshman center Destiny Stoker is bothered by a minor knee problem, Pugh said, and versatile sophomore Adrian Sanders has a swollen knee.
So, at the moment, the roster is a little thin.
At any rate, the emergence of freshmen Kendra Coleman and Jasmine Jefferson — two of five newcomers to this year’s team — has necessitated a lineup change since training camp began. The team moved Kendra Coleman from shooting guard to point guard. That, in turn, prompted SU to move Sanders — who played out of position as a point guard last season — to shooting guard and small forward.
As for the frontcourt, Southern would love nothing more than for post players Jamie Floyd and Laneisha Stephens to break out of minislumps. In the Jaguars’ past two games — back-to-back losses against Lamar and Louisiana-Lafayette — Floyd and Stephens combined to go 9-for-21 from the floor.
“We’ve got to get our offense going a little bit. When you’re holding teams to 55 or 60 points, that’s really not bad,” Pugh said. “What we’ve been doing is working hard on halfcourt defense and getting out in transition.”
Sunday afternoon, Southern will face a Tulane team that also looks very different from last season, with six freshmen on its roster.
The Green Wave beat North Texas 55-47 on Friday night in Denton, Texas, and had one day to prepare for SU. After that, Tulane will take an 11-day break from basketball for final exams.
“It’s a quick turnaround and again, Southern is a team that our players all know each other,” Stockton said. “We can’t look past them.”