NORMAL, Ala. — Southern, not known for its defensive prowess, showed Monday night it can guard opposing teams when necessary.
After Alabama A&M trimmed a 14-point lead down to five points at 49-44 with just over seven minutes left in the game, the Lady Jaguars held the Bulldogs to two points the rest of the way to come away with a 58-46 Southwestern Athletic Conference victory at Elmore Gym.
“We needed to slow them down a little bit,” said Southern coach Sandy Pugh after her team switched to a 2-3 zone defense. “They got a couple of baskets and we wanted to give them a different look."
The decision turned out to be a good one.
A&M managed just one basket the rest of way as Southern emerged with a 12-point victory.
The win lifted Southern to 13-11 overall and 12-3 in the SWAC. Alabama A&M fell to 10-15 and 5-9.
Duncan and Green, the Jaguars’ 1-2 punch nagged all season, did it again Monday night. They combined for 32 points and 15 rebounds to lead Southern. Green, who was only 8-of-19 from the field, finished with 18 points, nine rebounds, six steals and three assists, while Duncan had 14 points, six rebounds and two assists.
“I didn’t shoot the ball all that well,” Green said. “I missed a lot of layups and had some key turnovers, but we stayed with it and got the win."
“It would have been easy for us to take this team for granted,” Duncan said. “We came in hungry and wanted to set the pace of the game.”
Duncan came out on fire, scoring nine points in the first period, including a 3-pointer with 1:29 remaining to give the Jaguars their largest lead of the game at 20-11 at that point. A&M scored the last four points of the period to make it 20-15, but Southern used a strong second period, outscoring the Bulldogs 14-7 to take a 34-22 advantage at halftime.
“I had to be aggressive,” said Duncan, who finished with just four points in the loss at Alabama State Saturday. “I wanted to set the tone for my team and come out and have a good game.
The Jaguars were a little lackadaisical to open the third period, allowing A&M to go on a 6-1 run to pull within 35-28, but three consecutive three-point plays (one from Courtney Parsons and Green along with a 3-pointer from Duncan) helped Southern regain control at 44-33 and it lead 47-39 entering the fourth quarter.
“The game never should have been in doubt,” Pugh said. “We missed a ton of layups and we weren’t very good from the free-throw line.”
Southern shot 34.4 percent from the field (22-of-64), including 3-of-15 from 3-point range and was just 11-of-22 from the free-throw line.
Conversely, the Jaguars limited Alabama A&M to 31 percent shooting (19-of-61), including 3-of-17 from 3-point range and forced 23 turnovers.
After Lauren McKee drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 7:09 left to pull the Bulldogs within 49-44, the Jaguars switched from their man-to-man defense to the 2-3 zone and Alabama A&M managed just one field goal the rest of the way.
“We wanted to give them a different look and it was successful for us,” Duncan said.
“We went into game control and ate up the clock because we had the lead,” Pugh said.
Parsons finished with 11 points as Southern finished with three players in double figures.
DeShawna Harper and Alexandra Johnson finished with 12 points each to lead Alabama A&M.
Southern visits Alcorn State Saturday night, then finishes the regular season with home games against Texas Southern and Prairie View.
“If we win out, we’ll win the regular season title,” Pugh said. “This gives us an opportunity to go home and get a couple of days rest, iron out some kinks and close out the season. These next three games we’ve got to be in championship form.”