MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Southern men’s basketball coach Roman Banks and his staff lingered in the hallway outside the visitors locker room after the game Monday night in the Dunn-Oliver Acadome.
Banks was trying to find the right words with which to address his team after a 63-59 overtime loss to Alabama State that determined first place in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
It was a game in which the Jaguars led by as many as 17 points in the first half, had a chance for a tie-breaking score in the waning seconds of the second half, and thought they had secured possession for a possible tying or winning basket at the end of overtime only to see the officials rule a held ball that went the Hornets way rather than a Jaguars timeout.
“You want to calm down and make sue that you say the right things,” Banks said. “They didn’t intentionally miss a shot or intentionally throw a bad pass. We were a little inconsistent offensively, but other than that, we played a pretty good ballgame.”
The outcome was reminiscent of the previous SWAC loss for Southern (9-13, 6-2), a last-second 59-58 setback to Texas Southern on Jan. 5. The Jaguars visit Alcorn State on Saturday. Alabama State is 11-5 and 7-0.
The Hornets battled back from a 10-point halftime deficit to take a three-point lead. But Adrian Rodgers, who scored 21 points as the only Jaguar in double figures, banked in a 3-pointer to tie the score at 56 with 58 seconds left in regulation.
DeMarcus Robinson missed a jumper, and Wendell Lewis missed a jumper after grabbing the offensive rebound.
Keith Davis rebounded for the Jaguars with 40 seconds left. Southern ran down the shot clock before Davis missed from the lane. Alabama State rebounded and pushed the ball upcourt, and Robinson’s 3-pointer missed at the buzzer.
The score was tied again at 59 until Lewis hit a hook shot from the lane with 1:37 left in overtime.
Christopher Hyder missed a jumper from the lane, but the Jaguars got another chance after Jamel Waters missed a jumper.
Trelun Banks drove toward the basket and was called for a charge with 17.5 seconds left. A foul put Robinson on the line for two free throws with 11 seconds left. He missed both, and Tre Lynch rebound the ball for Southern and fell to the floor. Lynch, Hyder and the Jaguars coaches were yelling for a timeout as Robinson jumped at Lynch and tied him up.
“(The official) said I didn’t have possession before I called timeout,” Lynch said. “Sometimes that happens. Unfortunately you have to live with it.”
The possession arrow pointed the Hornets way. And after an in-bounds pass and another foul, Waters made two free throws to end it.
“It shouldn’t come down to a timeout call,” Banks said. “It came down to them rebounding and throwing it into the post. They won the rebounding war inside.”
Alabama State out-rebounded Southern 54-40, including 21-14 on the offensive glass, and shot 27 free throws to the Jaguars’ nine, leading to a 12-point edge at the line.
Waters led the Hornets with 18 points, and Lewis had 15 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
“It was just perseverance,” Alabama State coach Lewis Jackson said. “We got down early because they were more aggressive, and they were beating us up and down the court. I told them that if we didn’t step it up, we were going to get embarrassed on our home court.”
Alabama State didn’t look like a first-place team in falling behind by as many as 17 in the first half and 10 at halftime. But it looked like a different team to start the second half, scoring the first seven points.
“The most important part wasn’t the end of the game, but the end of the first half,” coach Banks said. “We got the lead, and we relaxed a little. They got it rolling and cut it to 10, and it carried over to the second half.”
Frank Snow’s tip-in stopped the run to start the second half, but the Hornets kept chipping away. Maurice Strong scored five points, and Waters three as Alabama State cut the lead to one.
Lynch came off the bench to make corner jumper and a 3-pointer to push the lead to six midway through the half.
But the Hornets kept going inside and kept getting to the foul line. Five free throws helped them get within one before Lewis’ put-back gave them a one-point lead with 5:36 left.
Alabama State twice took a three-point lead, but then it was Southern’s turn to come back. But the Jaguars couldn’t finish.
The Southern University Sixth Man Club will sponsor a bus trip to the Alcorn State doubleheader Saturday. The bus will leave at 10 a.m. from 4523 Plank Road. The cost is $40. For more information, call Anna Jones at 907-7212, Freddie Green Sr. at 421-6637 or Elijah Wilkinson Jr. at 355-9249.