NEW ORLEANS — The Southern University basketball team had a fast break into the 2012 season, playing five games in eight days.
And then they rested. Heading into tonight’s game against Tulane at Devlin Fieldhouse, the Jaguars have been off since Nov. 17.
Coach Roman Banks said he’s glad his team is playing again. The stretch of games from Nov. 9 to Nov. 16 was rough in more ways than one. Playing against larger schools such as Iowa State, Nebraska and Wyoming, mixed in with games against South Dakota and North Carolina Central State, Southern went 1-4. And, Banks said he’s not sure what type of team he has.
“We have not had guys put together back-to-back good games,” said Banks, who is in his second as Southern’s coach. “So, I don’t really know what our strengths are. I’d like to see the true character of our team.”
Tulane coach Ed Conroy said Southern, picked to finish second in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, has a good team and noted they’ve had some close losses.
“They have good balance, and they don’t make a lot of mistakes,” Conroy said. “They lost some games were they were outrebounded against bigger teams.”
The Green Wave (3-2) heads into tonight’s game after losing to Nebraska 61-57 on Wednesday night in Lincoln, Neb. Since opening the season with a 79-61 loss at Georgia Tech in which the Wave was pounded on the boards 47-23, Conroy said Tulane is playing better. He came away pleased, he said, with the showing at Nebraska.
“One of the things I was pleased with was that we were not outrebounded by Nebraska,” he said. “I think we’re learning our lessons from the Georgia Tech game.”
Tulane led 55-52 with 7:02 left. The game was tied at 57 with 2:06 left after Josh Davis sank two free throws. Davis had his third consecutive double-double, with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
Southern lost at Nebraska 66-55 on Nov. 11. Banks said the Jaguars had a good chance to win, however.
“(Center) Javan Mitchell got in foul trouble,” he said, “and they went on a five-minute run that hurt us, and we weren’t able to go on that kind of run.”
Those kind of runs are what Banks is most wary of against the Wave, who beat Southern 78-53 at Tulane last season.
“The key will be whether we are capable of competing with them for 40 minutes,” Banks said. “They are capable of going on these runs, and they play better after they get a lead. You can be right there with them, then they can go on a scoring run. They have a lot of guys back from last season.”
For Southern, rebounding has been they key all season. The Jaguars’ lone win came in the game in which they won the rebounding battle – against South Dakota, which it defeated 83-78 on Nov. 14 at Southern.
Tulane has outrebounded foes by more than five per game. Davis, who averages 9.4 rebounds per game, and 7-foot center Tomas Bruha concern Banks for that reason, but he said it doesn’t stop there. Perhaps out of necessity, Tulane’s perimeter players also get into the mix.
“Their forwards and guards rebound very well,” Banks said. “We can’t let them have second opportunities. They (shoot) over 50 percent after they get offensive rebounds.”
“They also have the talent to score inside and out. They have guys who can step out on the floor one minute, and then post you up the next. They can play inside and outside.
Davis leads the Wave in scoring at 19.0 points per game. Guard Rickey Tarrant, the Conference USA Freshman of the Year last season, averages 15.6 and guard Jordan Callahan12.2
Southern is led by senior small forward Derick Beltran (16.0, team-leading 5.0 rebounds per game), forward Malcolm Miller (11.0 points, 4.2 rebounds), the team’s sixth man, and Mitchell (10.4 points, 3.6 rebounds).
Southern’s starting power forward is Madut Bol, 6 feet 9, son of former NBA player Manute Bol.