It wasn’t the easy road Southern women’s basketball coach Sandy Pugh hoped it would be, but the Jaguars pulled away at the end to defeat Dillard 83-68 in the team’s only exhibition game before opening the season with Mobile on Friday.

The Jaguars struggled to close out the Bleu Devils early on despite having as much as an 18-point lead early in the second half. Dillard fought back to come within one point with as little as seven minutes left before Dillard center Raven Reyes air-balled what would’ve been the tying free throw.

The miss sparked a 20-8 run in the final minutes of the game that let Southern close out the game.

“We just didn’t do well on a lot of things,” a frustrated Southern coach Sandy Pugh said. “We were just really out of sync. A lot of coaches expect that in the first game, but I expected us to play way better.

The Jaguars were 30-for-57 from the field, including a significant drought in the middle of the second half that opened the door for the Bleu Devils to get back into the game. Southern also committed 18 turnovers.

Senior guard Kendra Coleman was one of the lone bright spots for the Jaguars offensively as she posted 26 points, picking up where she left off in 2013 as the team’s leading scorer.

“Coach put a lot of pressure on us, being seniors, to be the leaders on the floor and off,” Coleman said. “We just have to set the tempo and everybody else is going to follow.”

Dillard coach Norbert Rome said he doesn’t find any moral victories in a double-digit loss but said he’s still proud of the way his team hung tough with the defending Southwestern Conference Champions.

Sophomore point guard Shantrell Lumar led Dillard with 18 points, and Pugh said she was one of the main factors southern struggled to close out the Bleu Devils.

“I thought we gave great effort,” Rome said. “For us to be able to play on the court with them the way we did, shows our toughness.”