Derick Beltran started hot Monday night and never cooled off, hitting eight 3-pointers and flirting for a while with outscoring Jackson State by himself.
The senior guard finished with a career-high 35 points to lead the Jaguars to a 78-58 men’s college basketball victory, putting on a show for the crowd of 2,722 in the F.G. Clark Activity Center, well worth the $7 cost for general admission.
Beltran finished 12-of-21 from the field, including 8-of-14 from long range. He scored Southern’s first 15 points and led the rival Tigers 13-0 after five minutes.
“My coach gave me the green light, told me to be aggressive and go for the open shot,” Beltran said. “So my confidence was really high.”
Southern coach Roman Banks said he heard from his assistants before tipoff that Beltran was on the mark during pregame warmups. But he was every bit as pleased with the way Beltran, who had seven rebounds and blocked three shots, played defense.
“We’re talking about him on offense, but I thought he really helped set the tone of the defense as well,” Banks said. “But that’s how he is. When there’s some success for him on defense, he’s the kind of player that feeds off that and takes it to the offensive end.”
Jackson State (5-15, 4-7) entered Monday on a four-game Southwestern Athletic Conference winning streak, including a win at Alcorn State over the weekend. But the Tigers were no match for Beltran, who kept fans on the edge of a roar every time the ball found his hands. He may have gone for 40 points had he not spent the final 3:39 on the bench with leg cramps.
Eventually, his accuracy helped open things up for Malcolm Miller, who had a big night, too. Miller finished with 21 points, going 7-of-9 from the field and 3-of-5 beyond the arc. He also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
Beltran started his night with a 3-pointer from the left wing at 19:13, then he hit two more 3-pointers for a 9-0 lead with 16:54 left. He scored four more points before Jackson State found the basket.
Yondarius Johnson had the first points by a Jaguar not wearing No. 2 when he put back his own miss for a 17-6 edge at the 11:46 mark. Southern led 38-26 at halftime.
When he notched his final bucket on a 3-pointer with nine minutes left, Southern had a 62-38 lead and Beltran trailed Jackson State by only three points.
“I just wanted to keep it going,” he said. “Continue to take good shots and stay aggressive.”
Jackson State shot 27.5 percent and had only Jeff Stubbs (11 points) and Dundrecous Nelson (10) in double figures.
Continuing its season-long status as the SWAC leader, Southern (16-7, 10-1) will have a four-day break before visiting second-place Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday. The Jaguars have won 12 of their past 13.
“Pine Bluff is a team capable of winning this league,” Banks said. “You know it’s going to be a challenge for us up there.”