JACKSON, Miss. — Southern guard Adrian Rodgers had a simple description of what he expects when the Jaguars play at Jackson State on Monday night: “a football game.”
There are good reasons for that. JSU is one of the most physical teams in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, and Southern was the more physical team in a 74-66 victory over the Tigers on Jan. 11.
On top of that, this is an important game in the SWAC race. When first-place Texas Southern fell to Prairie View on Saturday for its first conference loss, it pulled the Jaguars (16-7, 8-2) within a game of first place, and JSU (12-11, 7-3) can tie the Jaguars with a victory Monday.
Southern coach Roman Banks went a step further, likening the matchup to the “Rumble in the Jungle” heavyweight fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire in 1974.
“I expect one of those type games,” Banks said. “They’re a very physical team, and they’re even more physical in their own place.”
In the first meeting, the Jaguars had five more rebounds, including two more on the offensive end, than the Tigers and outscored them in the paint 32-24 and on second chances 20-7.
“They’re going to watch the film, and they’re going to try and out-physical us,” Rodgers said. “But I like that. We’ll be ready for it.”
The Tigers can’t afford to focus just on doing a better job inside against the Jaguars, who have won eight consecutive games. Southern’s perimeter game was the difference in a 79-66 victory at Grambling on Saturday. Rodgers scored a career-high 30 points, making 4-of-7 3-pointers, 8-of-14 field goals and 10-of-12 free throws. Trelun Banks was even more effective from long range, making 5-of-7 3-pointers as he scored 18 points.
That keyed the Jaguars’ highest point total in a SWAC game this season as they scored more than 70 points for the fourth consecutive game. They topped 70 just once in their first six SWAC games.
JSU is second in the SWAC in scoring defense (63.2) and field goal percentage defense (38.9). Southern is third in scoring defense (64.6) and field goal percentage defense (41.6).
Both teams have been effective with their perimeter defense as well. JSU is first in steals per game (8.7), and Southern is second (7.8).
The Tigers, who lead the league at 4.2 blocked shots per game, are third in rebounds (37.7). The Jaguars are seventh (35.7).
“I know they’re going to come out to be real physical,” Trelun Banks said. “It’s always tough to win in Jackson. They’re going to have a great crowd. They’re going to be ready.”
Coach Banks said one of the keys will be to match JSU’s physicality yet avoid foul trouble.
“We don’t want to go out and be physical and get them in the one-and-one early,” Banks said. “That’s not what we’re about.
“We’re going to continue to try and beat people to their spots and play with a level of physicality.”
A foul-shooting contest would favor the Jaguars. They lead the SWAC in free-throw percentage (71.2), and the Tigers are last (58.4).