From Saturday’s opening tip in Southern’s 66-58 win against Alabama State, the Hornets shrunk into a 2-3 zone to dictate Southern's scoring opportunities.
The Hornets' plan was to limit layups and force the Jaguars to put it up from outside.
Southern, which was shooting 24.9 percent from 3-point territory going into the game, overcame the zone to improve to 7-9 and 6-1 against the Southwestern Athletic Conference while winning its season-high fifth straight game.
When it couldn't penetrate, Southern’s offense connected on 5 of 17 3-point tries. When it could, the Jaguars piled on 28 points in the paint, a third of their offensive production.
“The zone,” Southern star forward Briana Green said, “that’s something we’ve kind of been struggling with all season. I don’t think we did exceptionally well against the zone. I think we can (do) better.”
Alabama State (4-13, 2-4) sat in the compacted zone throughout Saturday, enticing long-distance shots and removing near-the-rim looks, which Southern prefers.
“We weren’t solid against the zone,” coach Sandy Pugh said. “We weren’t getting the ball to the high post. We weren’t very effective. I thought we were standing, very tentative against the zone.”
Southern subbed its default zone offense for a guard-heavy unit, using a quicker system to attack Alabama State’s slower interior defense. Green’s 25 points, her 11th consecutive game of 15 or more points, helped too.
“That was more effective for us,” Pugh said of the smaller lineup.
Southern rotated several half-court defenses instead its normal full-court presses, which Pugh calls “40 minutes of mayhem.” Samantha Duncan, who tweaked an ankle at practice this week, was limited and unable to demand her normal pace as the tip of Southern’s press.
“We made the decision to conserve some energy,” Pugh said. “And let’s work them a little harder on the defensive end in the half court.”
It got better in the second half.
“First half, it was terrible,” Green said. “Second half ... you know, make sure we go out and make sure we do what we’re supposed to do.”
Tied at 47 after three quarters, the “mayhem” required another notch.
Southern’s defense revved behind Green in the fourth. The Jaguars held Alabama State scoreless for nearly four minutes and took an 11-point lead in the process.
“When our energy is up,” Green said, “and we’re playing our type of basketball, there’s no stopping us.”