Southern knows its three-guard lineup is better suited for Southwestern Athletic Conference play than it is for some of its preconference opponents.
That was evident in the season opener Friday night when Arkansas’ 6-foot-10 forward Mosses Kingsley had a career-high 22 points, 12 rebounds, five blocked shots and three steals in 24 minutes in the Razorbacks’ 86-68 win in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
The Jaguars will face a similar challenge against another Southeastern Conference opponent when they meet Mississippi State at 7 p.m. Monday in Starkville, Mississippi. The Bulldogs feature 6-9 Gavin Ware and 6-7 Travis Daniels.
“It’s very hard to do out of conference,” Southern coach Roman Banks said. “But when you get into conference play, you can play a little smaller.”
The perimeter trio of seniors Christopher Hyder and Adrian Rodgers and junior Trelun Banks are the strength of the team. Southern has another experienced player in 6-foot-9 power forward Jared Sam, who’s adjusting to playing more center this season.
But the fifth spot in the starting lineup has been up for grabs.
“We need an offensive guy in the post,” Banks said. “The post is the missing piece.”
Banks started 6-8 newcomer D’Arien Allen, a junior transfer, in the opener. He had two points and two rebounds in 14 minutes.
The Razorbacks outrebounded the Jaguars 43-28, including a 17-7 advantage in offensive rebounds. That provided Arkansas with a 15-5 edge in second-chance points.
Still, Southern had its moments. Despite trailing by as many as 20 points in the first half, the Jaguars got within 62-56 when Rodgers made a 3-pointer to complete a 9-0 run.
But Kingsley scored six consecutive points during a 14-3 run that put the Razorbacks in command at 76-59.
Ware had a similar impact for State, which had to overcome a 10-point second-half deficit to defeat Eastern Washington 106-88 in Ben Howland’s debut as head coach Friday.
Ware scored a game-high 26 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Fellow forward Travis Daniels scored 16 points.
Hyder led Southern with 22 points, making eight of 12 shots, Rodgers scored 12 points, and Chris Thomas had 11. Hyder added five rebounds, five steals and a team-high four assists.
The Jaguars played just eight players. The only frontcourt players to play off the bench were 6-4 Shawn Prudhomme and 6-9 Tony Nunn.
“They’re not 6-10 or 11,” Hyder said of his frontcourt teammates, “but they play hard, they play strong, they play up to par.”
Coach Banks said before the opener that the frontcourt would evolve in the early stages of the season, adding, “By the time we get to conference play, we should have a pretty good package.”
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.