GRAMBLING — The Southern women’s basketball team seemed to have control of its game against Grambling on Saturday at the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center.
The Jaguars had a seven-point lead with less than five minutes remaining but lost control the rest of the way. They scored just four more points and watched the Lady Tigers score 12 in that stretch to claim a 56-55 victory.
The loss dropped the defending Southwestern Athletic Conference champion and preseason favorite to 3-12 and 1-2. Southern plays at Jackson State on Monday. Grambling is 3-10 and 1-2.
After squandering the lead, the Jaguars retook it at 56-55 when Cortnei Purnell made two free throws with 26 seconds left.
On the ensuing possession, Shanice Poole missed a 3-pointer, but Bre’Nae Andrews grabbed the offensive rebound — her only board in 38 minutes — and made a layup with 4.1 seconds left.
“I was thinking I needed to get this rebound by any means necessary,” Andrews said, “and it just happened to fall right into my arms and I went back up.”
Coleman seemed to agree with the “any means necessary” part.
“I tried to find (Andrews) as the shot went up,” Southern guard Kendra Coleman said. “I got pushed in the back, but obviously (the officials) didn’t see it.”
Jaguars coach Sandy Pugh was more concerned with the bigger picture.
“We never should have been in that position in the first place,” she said. “You’re up seven points, you’re in game control — take care of the basketball, get a high-percentage look.
“We’re turning the ball over like we’ve never seen a 2-2-1 (zone) before. We’ve seen it a thousand times. We practiced against it. It’s ridiculous.”
Southern committed 20 turnovers. Coleman was the only Jaguar who scored in double figures, finishing with 14 points on 4-of-12 shooting. Jasmine Jefferson was 4-of-14 to score eight points.
Neal led the Lady Tigers with 28 points, making 8-of-13 field goals and 11-of-13 free throws. Andrews had 12 points.
“We’ve got to play Southern basketball, and we didn’t do that today,” Pugh said. “This is a travesty. This is a joke. I’m really upset with these kids right now. I didn’t think we played with any level of execution, no sense of urgency. I’m extremely disappointed in our effort.”
Southern led 23-20 after a first half in which Coleman’s playing time was limited by two fouls and forward Yasmine Nelson was lost to a knee injury. She’s expected to have an MRI.
Two 3-pointers by Coleman and two baskets by Green helped the Jaguars build the lead to 41-33 midway through the half.
Neal scored five straight points for the Lady Tigers, but baskets by Jasmine Jefferson and two baskets by Green put Southern up seven with 4½ minutes to play.
Then it started to slip away.
“We weren’t managing the clock,” Coleman said. “We were shooting with 20-something on the shot clock.”
Grambling coach Nadine Domond was asked jokingly whether the last play happened the way she drew it up.
“I would love to say that,” she replied, “but I really think the basketball gods were with us at times today.”
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate