The Southern men’s basketball team completes its pre-conference schedule when it plays at Hawaii at 11 p.m. on Monday.
The first month-and-a-half of the season have not been kind to the Jaguars’ record (3-10), but even before the season ever began, coach Roman Banks knew the 2014 portion of the schedule was going to be extremely challenging.
Southern had just three home games among the 13 games that precede the Southwestern Athletic Conference opener at home against Prairie View on Saturday.
The 10 road games featured visits to Ole Miss, Minnesota, Iowa State, Wyoming and Baylor.
The challenge has lived up to expectations as only one of the road opponents — Northern Arizona — has a losing record and the group has combined to win more than 70 percent of its games.
The key to the pre-conference schedule wasn’t so much the won-lost record — which includes a 0-9 road record — as it was to compete so that the Jaguars would be ready for conference play and not get discouraged if the losses did mount.
“You’ve got to have balance,” Banks said. “You can’t get beat by 30 every night. You can’t break team morale. You want your guys to stay confident. Having a lot of bad losses early won’t do us any good.”
Though Southern has had some bad losses during its preseason gauntlet, it has persevered. In fact its best performance might have come in its last game — a 70-66 loss at No. 22 Baylor on Dec. 22.
The four-point margin was the smallest in all of Southern’s losses. The Jaguars’ first three road losses — to Ole Miss, Middle Tennessee State and Tulane — all came by double figures and the average margin was 21 points.
After a seven-point loss to Northern Arizona, Southern’s next four losses — to Eastern Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa State and Wyoming — also came by double figures and the average margin was 17 points.
Then came the loss to Baylor in which Southern held the Bears without a field goal for the final 6:09, but Baylor held on by making 11 of its last 12 free throws down the stretch.
The Jaguars, who scored the most points against the Bears this season, have never faced Hawaii, which is 10-4.
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.