JACKSON, Miss. — The Southern women’s basketball team has played just three Southwestern Athletic Conference games, but it hasn’t looked like the team that was picked to win the regular-season title.
The Jaguars (2-10 overall) beat Prairie View in their conference opener before losing to Texas Southern. Then came a 57-56 loss in the league road opener against Grambling on Saturday.
Southern had big advantages in size and experience and led by as many as eight points in the second half but couldn’t finish.
The loss seemed to leave Jaguars coach Sandy Pugh equal parts angry and mystified.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” Pugh said. “Our veterans didn’t do a good job. They weren’t focused. I think that lack of leadership and lack of toughness showed its head.”
Southern was picked to win the SWAC in large part because it has two seniors — Kendra Coleman and Jasmine Jefferson — who were the top two scorers as the Jaguars went 16-2 in winning the league title last season.
Both have been less consistent so far this year. Coleman’s scoring average has dropped from 17.4 to 12.8 and Jefferson’s averages dropped from 12.0 points and 8.5 rebounds last season to 8.5 and 4.2 this year.
Though neither has played up to their standards so far, they are still the players most likely to get the Jaguars on track, beginning with Southern’s game at Jackson State at 5:30 p.m. Monday.
“When it’s a situation like this you have to expect Kendra and Jas to be the leaders,” Pugh said. “They’re veteran players. They’ve played the most minutes of any kids on the team. You’ve got to expect that they’re going to be doing and saying the right things.”
Jefferson has admitted to falling short as a leader thus far. She often had to battle, bigger, stronger players during a difficult nonconference schedule, but the impact hasn’t increased significantly in the early games of SWAC play.
“Jas hasn’t really shown up all season,” Pugh said. “She hasn’t gotten into the rhythm, and I don’t know how to fix her issue. We’ve been talking to her and working extra with her. She has all the tools. She just has to show up more.”
Pugh said Coleman, a shooting guard who has taken on added point-guard duties early in the season, will be the point guard “permanently going forward.”
The Jaguars have been plagued by turnovers all season, and a lack of ball security and poor clock management contributed to being outscored 12-4 in the final 4½ minutes against Grambling.
“I have to make sure we get a good shot and get it within the time frame (Pugh) wants it to be, make sure the team is into a good rhythm,” Coleman said. “I’ve been in this situation many times. Whether she plays me at the two or the one or the three, it really doesn’t matter. Whatever she wants I just need to take the responsibility.”
Jackson State is 5-9 and 2-1 after a home loss to Alcorn State (76-69) on Monday.
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.