Southern hangs with Louisiana Tech but falters late _lowres

Advocate staff photo by ANGELA MAJOR -- Southern's Joell Hopkins (35) shoots Friday, Nov. 14, 2014 during the Jaguars' game against Louisiana Tech at F.G. Clark Activity Center.

The Southern men’s basketball team opened the season Friday night with only one starter from last season’s Southwestern Athletic Conference championship team.

The Jaguars lost to Louisiana Tech 85-76 in the F.G. Clark Activity Center, but they showed the cupboard isn’t bare after the graduation of four key players and the transfer of two others.

“We played pretty well,” guard Christopher Hyder said, “but in the end, they made more plays and outworked us.”

The Bulldogs, who won 29 games and a share of the Conference USA championship last season, outscored Southern 28-17 during the final nine minutes.

Alex Hamilton led Tech with 18 points, Erik McCree scored 17 and Raheem Appleby and Speedy Smith had 15 each.

Guard Trelun Banks, the SWAC Freshman of the Year last season, was the only Southern player to start Friday who started most of last year and he finished with nine points but made just 2-of-11 shots.

Joell Hopkins, a transfer from Florida State, led the Jaguars’ balanced attack with 13 points, and Hyder had 11. Adrian Rodgers had nine and Cameron Monroe eight. Chris Thomas and Frank Snow scored seven each.

Southern, which hosts LSU-Alexandria on Monday, played without guard Tre Lynch, who’s expected to miss two to three weeks with a sprained ankle.

“We have a lot of potential,” Monroe said. “but Louisiana Tech just beat us.”

Monroe made back-to-back 3-pointers to give Southern a 57-53 lead midway through the second half.

Appleby made two free throws, and Xavian Stapleton scored on a layup to tie the score before Monroe answered with a layup.

Two more free throws by Appleby provided the fourth tie in a seven-minute span before Erik McCree’s two free throws put Tech in front to stay.

“Louisiana Tech is definitely one of the top mid-major programs in the country,” Southern coach Roman Banks said. “If we hadn’t played that good a team, we probably would have walked out of here with a win tonight.”