The Southern men’s basketball team had fun running up and down the court with Mississippi Valley State in a 79-55 victory Monday night.
The Jaguars took advantage of the Delta Devils’ trapping defense to compile their highest point total against NCAA competition this season.
“It’s fun playing that way,” guard Tre Lynch said. “As a team, we don’t really like running set offense.”
Southern expects to run a lot more set offense when it visits Alabama A&M at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Valley is last in the Southwestern Athletic Conference in scoring defense (80.6), but the Bulldogs are third at 59.2 — 3.4 points per game behind the Jaguars’ league-leading average.
“This is a different type of game,” Southern coach Roman Banks said. “I think Monday night’s game was opportunity-type basketball. They didn’t let you run anything, and they were kind of helter-skelter and up and down the court. This time it’s going to be a little different, a little bit better organized team. This game you’ll probably get a chance to run some of your sets because they really like to just guard you through the shot clock kind of like we do. They’re actually one of the better defensive teams in the league right now.”
The Jaguars (8-12, 5-1) have won their past four games but remain a game behind Alabama State and Texas Southern (5-0) in the loss column. The Bulldogs (4-11 overall) are next in line at 3-2.
“We’re going to play at their pace, but when we have a chance to get out and run, we’re going to get out and run because that’s what we want to do,” guard Christopher Hyder said. “If our shooters are open, they’re still going to take that shot whether it’s early or late. It’s my job to kind of make sure everything is in order. A&M is a team that sits back, so we can’t just go in there and shoot it in the first five seconds.”
In the Jaguars’ past two games, they have taken control with a strong push at the end of nearly identical first halves. On Monday, they finished with a 13-2 run to take a 13-point halftime lead. Two nights earlier, they finished with an 18-7 run to take a 12-point halftime lead on their way to a 70-60 victory.
“When we close the first half like that, it gives us some distance in case (the opponent) comes out and makes a run,” Hyder said. “It puts us in a good place.”
A win would put Southern in a pretty good place for its matchup with Alabama State on Monday, but first things first.
“We’re just a game ahead of (the Bulldogs), so you have to respect them because right now they’re capable of being in the mix,” Banks said. “They’re in the top half of our league right now.”
The Jaguars have won the past six meetings.
A&M will be playing its first game since assistant coach James Wright died Wednesday, reportedly of natural cardiopulmonary causes. He was 46 and in his fourth season with the Bulldogs.
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.