The Southern men’s basketball team is in third place in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
If the Jaguars had come up with one more basket or one more defensive stop at the right moment in their two losses, they’d be undefeated in the SWAC and sitting all alone in first place.
That’s how close they are to being the pace-setter, but instead they’re 6-2, a half-game behind Texas Southern, a game and a half behind Alabama State and down in the tie-breaker to both as they prepare to visit Alcorn State (3-5, 4-16) at 5 p.m. Saturday.
“We haven’t learned how to put it all together yet,” coach Roman Banks said.
In Southern’s 59-58 loss at home to Texas Southern on Jan. 5, the Jaguars led by a point with less than a minute to play, missed a free throw that would have given them a two-point lead with 28 seconds left and sank a 3-pointer a second after the final buzzer sounded.
In its 63-59 loss at Alabama State on Monday, Southern squandered a 17-point first-half lead, failed to score a potential go-ahead basket in the waning seconds of regulation and failed to score a tying or go-ahead basket in the final minute of overtime.
“We kind of got out of character a little bit,” forward Keith Davis said. “We took poor shots, we turned the ball over a little bit and we kind of let them get on the offensive glass a little bit more.”
The Jaguars paid the price for a slow second-half start at Alabama State, something they survived two nights earlier in a 65-58 win at Alabama A&M. Against A&M, they led by nine at halftime but saw the Bulldogs begin the second half with a 10-4 run to get within three though they could never pull even.
On Monday, first-place ASU was good enough to overtake Southern and hang on for the victory.
“When we came out for the second half it was like the lesson from Saturday night,” Banks said. “We haven’t learned yet that on the road they’re going to come out with a bunch of energy. They catch you before the first media (time-out) and then they’re right in the ball game instead of making it tough on them. That’s a key thing that bothers me that we’ve done that two games in a row.”
The game at Alcorn State marks the end of the first half of the conference season for the Jaguars, who will play five of their nine second-half games in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
Davis called the first 15 minutes against Alabama State “as good as we’ve played in a while.”
“Basically we just have to come out in the second half exactly the way we do in the first half — just play and not be complacent,” he said. “I feel like that’s what we do is we get very complacent and kind of get our of character as a team and that’s not good if we want to be a championship team.
“I think we’ve developed well, especially on the defensive end. We’re finding ways to win with our defense. We’re not going to shoot the ball extremely well every night so we’re digging in on defense. Now we’ve got to put that together for the second half and stop people from scoring in the second half like we do in the first half.”
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.