Shortly after the South Alabama women’s basketball team rallied to drop Southern 57-44 last week in Mobile, Ala., longtime USA coach Rick Pietri said he liked what he saw.

Not just from his team, which opened the season by defeating two conference champions, Central Florida and Southern.

Pietri said he liked what he saw from a young but athletic SU squad, which hosts Lamar at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.

“I think Southern’s pretty good,” Pietri said. “They’re long. They’re athletic. Sandy (Pugh) always does a good job. It’s a championship program. They won the SWAC last year, and I think they have the pieces to win the SWAC again this year.”

The Jaguars certainly hope so. One thing is certain: After they finish this nonconference schedule, they’ll probably have a decent idea of just how good they can be.

Monday’s game against Lamar (3-1) is the final home game of 2011 for Southern (1-1), which will face Louisiana-Lafayette, Tulane, Ohio State and Washington next month before Southwestern Athletic Conference play begins Jan. 3 at Prairie View.

The schedule will be a tough test for the Jaguars, who go from facing one conference championship contender (South Alabama, which could win the Sun Belt) to another (Lamar won the Southland Conference two years ago and finished second last season).

As for the Jaguars, they’re coming off back-to-back SWAC titles of their own. Though a relatively inexperienced team, Southern, playing its first road game of the season last week at USA, had a five-point lead early in the second half but couldn’t keep it.

Fifth-year senior Jamie Floyd led the team with 12 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.

“Jamie asserted herself as the person we know she’s capable of being,” Pugh said. “We need to get her going (with) at least 15-16 shots a game.”

SU faced Lamar in Beaumont, Texas, last season and lost in a disappointing 87-54 blowout.

The Lady Cardinals, in their fifth year under coach Larry Tidwell, are coming off back-to-back home victories over Ole Miss and Louisiana-Monroe.

Monday’s visit to Southern will mark the first of eight straight road games for Lamar, its longest stretch of road games since 1982.

After Monday’s game in the Activity Center, the Lady Cardinals will play three games at the BTI Tipoff Classic in Lawrence, Kan., followed by visits to UTEP, TCU, LSU and Houston Baptist.

“This is the toughest nonconference schedule we’ve had in my five years at Lamar,” Tidwell said. “This will definitely help us get ready for our Southland Conference season.”