LORMAN, Miss. — The Southern men’s basketball had slow second-half starts in road games against Alabama A&M and Alabama State last weekend.
The slow start at Alabama A&M made a victory more stressful than it otherwise would have been, and the one at Alabama State contributed to an overtime loss in a game that the Jaguars led by as many as 17 points.
But when Southern returned to the road Saturday, it was the way the Jaguars finished the second half that made the difference. The Jaguars scored the final seven points of the game and held Alcorn State without a field goal in the final four minutes to pull away to a 65-56 victory in the Davey L. Whitney Complex.
“Our defense down the stretch really made the difference for us,” Southern coach Roman Banks said.
The Jaguars led by four at halftime and stretched the lead to 11 with eight minutes remaining, then Alcorn made a move.
LeAntwan Luckett made three free throws, and Reginald Johnson scored nine straight Braves points to cut the lead to 56-55 with 3:35 left.
Banks brought back guard Christopher Hyder, who had gone to the bench after committing his third foul with 14:41 left.
“I thought we had a great offensive run (to extend the lead),” Banks said. “Then I went ahead and brought Hyder back in, which gave us a little better defensive lineup.”
Frank Snow made two free throws for Southern, and Michael Davis made one for Alcorn, leaving the Jaguars with a two-point lead with 1:40 left.
Jared Sam made a free throw, Hyder made a steal and fed Trelun Banks for a layup, Adrian Rodgers made three free throws, and Hyder made one to complete the finishing run.
“We just had to lock in and focus,” Sam said. “We didn’t want to have the same thing happen that happened in the Alabama State game.”
Southern, 7-2 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and 10-13 overall, hosts Grambling next Saturday. Alcorn is 3-6 and 4-17.
Rodgers scored a game-high 25 points, and Sam had nine points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
Davis and Johnson led the Braves with 15 points each, Luckett scored 12, and Marquis Vance had a game-high 12 rebounds to go with five points.
The Jaguars showed modest improvement with its second-half start by increasing its four-point halftime lead to seven in the first minute and a half of the second half.
Alcorn got within four before the Jaguars defense fueled a run by holding the Braves without a field goal for nearly five minutes.
Keith Davis made a hook shot, Banks fed Rodgers for a layup, Tre Lynch fed Joell Hopkins for a layup, and Rodgers made a 3-pointer. That gave Southern a 46-35 lead.
“(The second-half start) was a little bit better and it helped us tonight,” coach Banks said. “It took them time and energy to get (close), and we finished on our run.”
Southern had a strong start and finish to the first half as well.
Four of its starters scored as the Jaguars jumped to a 9-2 lead after 5½ minutes, but Alcorn came right back. The Braves scored eight straight to take the lead and a 6-0 run moments later gave them an 18-14 lead.
Rodgers scored five points as Southern regained the lead at 23-22 before Vance made two free throws for Alcorn.
Hyder made a free throw to tie it, and Rodgers made two baskets to give the Jaguars a 28-24 halftime lead.
“We were good defensively the whole half,” Rodgers said. “We were getting stops, but we weren’t converting on the stops. Finally in the last minute, we started attacking the rim and getting easy shots.”
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.