It took 10 games into the season, but the Southern women’s basketball team finally chalked up its first win of the 2012-13 campaign, and in about as dramatic a fashion as possible.
Southern held the lead from the start, scoring on its first possession of the contest and maintained that lead until there were just 39 seconds left in the game. That’s when Southeastern Louisiana’s Brandi Simmons dropped in layup for the Lions’ first advantage of the contest.
But unlike previous games, Southern responded by driving down the court, using its last timeout to draw up a play and executing with a baseline floater from junior guard Kendra Coleman that gave Southern a one-point lead and eventual three-point win against SLU 59-56 on Monday night at the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
“I think one of the things we did that was positive was we closed the game out,” Southern coach Sandy Pugh said. “Usually when we struggle, we fold. Against Marshall we led, against Southern Illinois we led, but when they press, we folded. I think this time around, the seniors stepped up. That’s what has to happen.”
While there was just two lead changes the entire night, it was far from an easy road to redemption for the Jaguars. Southern (1-9) led by as many as 10 early in the second half, but watched its lead slowly dwindle as SLU (6-3) chipped away, shooting 50 percent from the field in the half.
After the Lions snagged its first lead of the game at 56-55, the Jaguars answered with a score of their own, forced a turnover on the other end and junior guard Yasmin Fuller sank two clutch free throws to put Southern ahead by three with five ticks remaining.
SLU inbounded the ball to point guard Elizabeth Styles, who drove down the floor and threw up an open-look 3-pointer that swirled around the rim once before shooting out to secure Southern’s first victory of the year.
“I didn’t like the last play because a post player should have stepped up,” Pugh said. “She got a good look at the basket. That little team is scrappy and they don’t have any quit in them. We’ve got to do a better job. I thought they out-toughed us.”
Ironically, SLU coach Lori Davis Jones thought the same thing of Southern.
“We got out-toughed. We got out-physicaled,” Jones said. “Credit Southern with what they did defensively, just jamming us and holding and making it a really, really physical game in the paint. That kind of took away some post presence for us.”
The Lions still outrebounded the Jaguars 39-35, and two of their top three scorers were forwards Brandi Simmons and Aja Gibson, who scored 13 and 11, respectively.
Southern’s defense did hold SLU, which averaged about 74 points per game, to just 19 first-half points, which Jones said was the key to the defeat.
“Overall, I thought we played a really poor first half,” Jones said. “I thought we pressed too much offensively to make things happen too quickly. I felt like we didn’t adjust real well. I thought we spent the whole first half fighting an adjustment that we needed to make. It’s just disappointing to come in here and play basketball in the first half that is so unlike us.”
Southern’s next step is to travel to Columbus, Ohio, to take on Ohio State on Friday.
When asked about the giant task that lies ahead of them in trying to beat the Buckeyes, Pugh simply replied, “They can do it.”