The Southern men’s basketball team had a week to prepare for the start of the second half of the Southwestern Athletic Conference season.
The Jaguars (15-7, 7-2) have won seven consecutive games going into their game against Grambling at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Fred C. Hobdy Arena in Grambling.
The extra time was a like a mini basketball version of an open date in football — an opportunity to self-scout, adjust accordingly and re-emphasize fundamentals. Coach Roman Banks was able to squeeze in an extra intensive practice early in the week before focusing on the Tigers (6-15, 3-6).
“We wanted to see what worked and what didn’t work and what we can add to our arsenal to be a little better,” Banks said. “We dissect all the tapes and bring our guys in to look at the film. This time of year, it’s all about the mental aspect going down the stretch. We’re going to see what we can do better.”
The Jaguars’ winning streak began against Grambling when they brushed off an 0-2 start in SWAC play and beat the Tigers 66-61 on Jan. 9 in the F.G. Clark Activity Center. It reached seven games when the Jaguars beat Alcorn State 75-64 at home last Saturday.
“We’re trusting each other, trusting that we’re going to make the right plays,” guard Trelun Banks said. “We’re playing 40 minutes, and we’re fighting every day to be better than we were the day before. We’re playing with a lot of momentum, and we’ve got to keep going.”
The defense has been especially good of late. Two days before holding down Alcorn State, the Jaguars held Alabama A&M to its lowest point total of the season in a 73-52 win.
“We’re talking more on defense than we were at the beginning of the year when the chemistry wasn’t really there,” Trelun Banks said. “We’re talking, and we’re on each other to compete, and that’s making each of us better and that’s making us better as a team.”
Improved defense has contributed to improved offense as well. The Jaguars have scored 73, 73 and 75 points in their past three games after topping 70 just once in their first six SWAC games.
“We’re guarding better these last couple of games,” guard Christopher Hyder said. “We’re scoring the ball because we’re stopping people and getting out in transition and getting some easy buckets.”
The first meeting not only started Southern on a winning streak, it also started a slide for Grambling, which had started SWAC play with a pair of overtime victories. But the loss to Southern started a stretch in which the Tigers have lost six of seven.
In the first meeting, the Jaguars had a 17-point lead early in the second half but had to hold off a Grambling charge as the Tigers twice got within two points.
“Now it’s the second time around and teams might throw something different at us than they did the first time,” guard Adrian Rodgers said. “But we’ll be ready for everything.”
The Jaguars are tied for second in the SWAC with Jackson State (which they visit Monday), two games behind Texas Southern.