Scripted across Southern’s celebratory white T-shirts for winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference regular-season championship read “40 minutes of mayhem."
The Jaguars are undersized, and they know it. They have a wealth of young talent; they also know that. But, by design with a physically smaller core of stars, the Jaguars know they've unleashed the SWAC’s most athletic and lethal defense all season.
Their chaotic defense — the “mayhem” — is how the Jaguars reached the 2018 SWAC tournament semifinals with a 70-60 quarterfinal win Tuesday against No. 8 Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
“They are very aggressive on defense,” said Faith Ohanta, Pine Bluff's All-SWAC second team forward. “At times it’s hard to overcome, mentally, their aggression on defense."
Now they'll head to Delmar Fieldhouse in Houston for Friday's semifinals.
“Southern has proven that they’re the best team in the conference,” said UAPB coach Nate Kilbert.
And it’s why the Jaguars will meet No. 4 Prairie View A&M at noon Friday for a chance to advance to Saturday’s championship game.
“Our coaches prepare us very well,” said Southern forward Briana Green, the SWAC’s defensive player of the year. “They make sure we know players’ tendencies and stuff like that, so I mean it’s just like any other game … but of course it’s a big game because it’s the tournament.”
Southern pounded Prairie View A&M 96-58 on Saturday to clinch the school’s first outright regular-season championship since 2013-14.
The Jaguars’ 38-point win was their largest margin of victory of the season and revenge, Green said, from Prairie View’s 69-62 win on Jan. 3, Southern’s second conference game.
Should Southern defeat Pine Bluff, it will advance to the SWAC tournament championship game at 12:30 p.m. Saturday against the winner of No. 2 Texas Southern and No. 3 Grambling. The tournament final can be seen on ESPN3, the online-only streaming service.
“This time of the year, it’s do or die,” said Southern coach Sandy Pugh.