Southern’s women haven’t lost in more than 20 days. Six straight wins later, and they’ve bloomed into a Southwestern Athletic Conference menace unable to be tamed.
The Jaguars are 7-1 in SWAC play and are alone in first place after losing Jan. 3 against Texas Southern.
“The biggest thing is that people are starting to do their job,” said Southern coach Sandy Pugh. “People are starting to understand where they fit and where they fit in with the rotations … That’s starting to happen.”
This is Southern’s sixth straight season with a run of five or more consecutive wins. The Jaguars look to extend the streak as the first half of a doubleheader Saturday against Alcorn State, with the women tipping off at 3 p.m. at the F.G. Clark Activity Center. Southern's men will immediately follow at approximately 5:30 p.m.
For the women's team, it’s been a pleasant and impressive 180-degree turnaround from its 1-8 slog through non-conference play to start the season.
“We really haven’t worried about it," Pugh said. "Our focus has completely been about preparing for the next opponent and doing our best there. This conference (schedule) is 18 games — and it’s long. It can be tedious and exhausting. Our focus is to keep the kids as fresh as possible.”
Reese seizing new role
Southern needs this version of Eddie Reese.
Reese, an aggressive left-hander, began the season as Southern’s starting point guard and handled the position fine as a speedy ball-handler capable of whizzing past defenders. Reese's strengths, however, revolve around scoring — so Southern coach Morris Scott made a change.
Like multiple members of Southern's roster, Reese is a junior-college transfer without much for opposing teams to scout — yet.
“That guy is the guy that we really need to come back to life for us,” Scott said. “Earlier in the year, I thought he was that guy that stepped up for us and made some shots. You know, as a junior-college player coming in — they know about you, but they don’t really don’t know about you. Then they get into that scouting report.”
Scott moved Reese to shooting guard and inserted Torrey Mayo, another junior-college transfer with a more conservative approach, as the starting point guard.
Mayo’s a bit more methodical. Southern’s offense runs smoother — and is safer — with Mayo in control, Scott said. The swap also has allowed Southern to place Reese in a position with plenty of opportunity to score.
So far, it’s working.
“That’s helping a lot,” Scott said. “Torrey’s a guy that really can slow us down, get us under a little more control. Eddie’s more of a quick trigger … he’s like Brett Favre and Torrey’s like Tom Brady. He makes sure everything goes smooth and makes sure he gets the ball to the right spot. Eddie’s a gunslinger. He’s a little different. So it’s a little tougher with him at the point.
“But he can score the basketball really well. So you don’t want to stop that. But yeah, Torrey’s doing a great job of running the team. Hopefully he can continue to get better as well.”
Since the swap, which was made more than a week ago, Southern has won three consecutive games. Reese has scored in double digits twice during the winning streak and has tabbed fewer than 12 points only once in Southern's past four games.