The last time the Southern men’s basketball team played at Fogelman Arena, junior point guard Jameel Grace wasn’t exactly thrilled.
It was the last night of November, and the Jaguars had played hard against Tulane. That was good.
They lost, 78-53. That, of course, was not good. Southern simply didn’t play well enough to notch a stunning upset against a then-undefeated team.
“We know we can play better than this, and we just need to decide to do it,” Grace said afterward.
Ten days after their most recent game, the Jaguars (2-5) are headed back to New Orleans. At 7 p.m. Friday in the same arena, they’ll face NAIA opponent MacMurray College (4-2) on the first day of the Skip Prosser Tournament, hosted by Tulane.
This, of course, is their first chance to show some improvement after a long break.
What have they done with all that time off? Naturally, first-year coach Roman Banks has spent quite a bit of time with his team inside the F.G. Clark Activity Center, searching for ways to fine-tune between now and the start of Southwestern Athletic Conference play next month.
But the players have been working harder at something other than basketball.
Southern wraps up a week’s worth of final exams Friday, and because of the team’s low APR score - the Jaguars are banned from this year’s SWAC tournament, and another substandard score could result in more penalties - Banks has put more of a premium on attacking study halls instead of attacking a 2-3 zone.
This week, the team has shortened practices and doubled up on its usual allotment of study halls.
“That’s the most important part for us right now,” he said. “I’ve been preaching that the whole week. I’ve been preaching it so much, I might as well get my collar.”
As for practice, well, even the shortened sessions were important.
And they’ve involved quite a bit of study time, as well.
“Actually, we’ve been watching ourselves on quite a bit on film,” Banks said.
Southern’s season opener was a 67-48 win over Dillard at home Nov. 11. After that, however, the Jaguars headed straight to Texas A&M for a Nov. 13 game (they lost, 83-58), followed by road trips to Rice on Nov. 17 and Providence on Nov. 22, followed by two more games in South Padre Island, Texas, on Thanksgiving weekend.
In other words, Banks said, the team was so busy preparing for games that they didn’t have a lot of time for teaching and learning.
Case in point: The Tulane game. The effort was there, Banks said. The execution was not. Not often enough, anyway.
“We got beat by Tulane by double digits. But it wasn’t all (because of) their defense,” Banks said. “It was more of us blowing opportunities on offense, and then they would come back and score. You can only hold guys off so long when you’re not putting the ball in the bucket.”
Also, because they’re not the tallest team around - Southern’s tallest starter, Quinton Doggett, is 6-foot-8 - the Jaguars are looking for ways to rebound and score effectively near the goal.
“I’m hoping we’ve helped ourselves with some different types of rotations and traps that will help us possibly on the defensive boards and protect us against size problems,” Banks said.
Friday night, after a long break, they’ll get a chance to see what kind of progress they’ve made.
Study time is over.
Another round of tests is at hand.
Southern vs. MacMurray
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday.
WHERE: Fogelman Arena, New Orleans.
RADIO: None. TV: None.
RECORDS: Southern 2-5, MacMurray 4-2.
LAST MEETING/SERIES: First meeting.
UP NEXT: Southern vs. Jacksonville State, at New Orleans, 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
G Jameel Grace 6-0 Jr.
G Mike Celestin 6-0 So.
G Derick Beltran 6-4 Jr.
F Quinton Doggett 6-8 Sr.
F Fredrick Coleman 6-6 Sr.
G Cameron Monroe 6-2 Fr.
G Russell Hill 6-3 So.
C Madut Bol 6-9 Jr.
G Clint Lee 6-0 Sr.
G Cody Best 6-3 Jr.
F Dylan Burton 6-5 So.
F Brady Slagle 6-6 So.
C Cole Busch 6-7 So.
G Luke Bishop 6-1 Jr.
F Zac Ozee 6-3 Sr.
F Hunter Sutton 6-5 Fr.