A small but enthusiastic crowd turned out to welcome first-year Southern University basketball coach Roman Banks Friday night at the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
Banks and his Jaguars didn’t disappoint on this night as Southern overcame an early deficit, and didn’t look back on its way to a 67-48 win over Dillard University.
Southern (1-0) trailed 8-4, but Mike Celestin’s 3-pointer put the Jaguars on top for good at 10-8. Dillard got as close as 36-32 early in the second half, but trailed by double digits much of the half.
Celestin and Russell Hill led Southern with 14 points apiece. Quinton Doggett worked inside for 13 points and six rebounds.
“The win makes it sweeter,” Banks said of his first outing as head coach at Southern. “I knew we’d be in for a fight tonight. I just wanted to be patient. I figured we’d stay with what we’ve been working on, and if the guys were consistent, we’d be able to get a run.”
That run was a 17-4 second-half spurt after the Bleu Devils had pulled to within four. Doggett started the run by knocking down two free throws, and then fed Fredrick Coleman for a basket.
After Celestin canned a 3-pointer from the top of the key, Doggett added two more inside baskets as Southern’s lead grew to 53-36 with nine minutes to play.
Dillard (0-4) was unable to get the deficit under 10 points again.
“We played better tonight than we have, but we still have a long way to go,” first-year Dillard coach Bernard Griffith said. “(Southern) played well. They shot well in their house, which you expect, and they attacked us where we were vulnerable.”
For the game, Southern shot 47 percent, but was above 50 most of the game before fading late. Southern outrebounded Dillard 32-31, and only turned the ball over five times compared to 16 for the Bleu Devils.
“This time of year, defense is what you talk about,” Banks said. “Defense will help you win games, and it will help you stay in games. Tonight, I think defense gave us the boost we needed.”
The teams traded baskets in the early going. Celestin fed Doggett for an alley oop basket to start the game, and Dillard’s Lance Theard answered with a 3-pointer.
Two free throws from Jordan Kilson, and a 3-point play by Jamal Silas put Dillard up 8-4. Back to back 3-pointers turned the tide as Celestin’s baskets put Southern ahead 13-8.
Later, Southern stopped three consecutive Dillard possessions with steals, and Hill’s jumper put Southern up 18-12 at the 12:54 mark.
Dillard’s Zachary Harmon hit a 3-pointer to make it 20-16, but Southern surged ahead 24-17 behind three free throws from Jameel Grace.
Dillard began driving to the basket, and drew fouls on consecutive possessions to get within 24-19. Terry Church’s inside basket cut the lead to three before Southern closed with 7-2 run over the final three minutes of the half.