The Southern and Louisiana Tech basketball teams met early last season in Ruston on their way to winning conference championships.
When they meet again in their season opener Friday night in the F.G. Clark Activity Center, both teams will have a lot of new faces.
The Jaguars, 19-13 last season, won the Southwestern Athletic Conference with a 15-3 record. The Bulldogs, who tied a school record with 29 victories, claimed their second consecutive conference title by fishing with a 13-3 mark and in a four-way tie for first in Conference USA.
Tech beat Southern 69-50 last Dec. 7 in a game in which Jaguars forward Calvin Godfrey played just 16 minutes before suffering a hyperextended right elbow. Godfrey is one of six key players from last year’s Jaguars team who are gone.
“We thought we played well,” Southern coach Roman Banks said. “Calvin got hurt. I think they kind of dominated us a little bit on the inside. The score doesn’t really demonstrate to me how close the game was last year.”
Tech pulled away from a six-point halftime lead.
The Jaguars have 10 new players this season, and the Bulldogs have nine — two redshirts, two junior-college transfers and five freshman recruits.
But Tech’s four returning players are all starters, and three are all-conference guards: Raheem Appleby, Alex Hamilton and Speedy Smith, who was a first-team all conference player and the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year last season. The other returning starter is forward Michale Kyser, who led the team in rebounding (6.6 per game) and blocked shots (3.0) last season.
“It’s going to be a challenge for us,” Banks said. “We try to play teams like Louisiana Tech because we want our program to be mentioned in the same breath if not better. and we all know the success that Louisiana Tech has had.”
The Bulldogs advanced to the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament last season before losing to Florida State, just their eighth loss of the season.
“I hope we haven’t bit off more than we can chew right now,” Banks said.
Southern has six players back, including five guards — Trelun Banks (the SWAC Freshman of the Year last season), Tre Lynch, Christopher Hyder, Cameron Monroe and Mike Harrell — as well as center Frank Snow. Despite the turnover, the Jaguars were picked to finish second in the SWAC.
“Southern has had a target on its back for the last three or four years,” Trelun Banks said, “so we’re not worried about being picked second.”
Women face Mobile College
The Southern women’s basketball team will provide a fleeting glimpse to the home crowd when it opens the season against Mobile College at 5:30 p.m. Friday in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
After that, the Jaguars will hit the road for six games in 24 days and not play at home again until facing Florida A&M on Dec. 17.
The road swing begins with games at Southeastern on Tuesday and Ole Miss two nights later.
“We definitely have three quality games before us fairly quickly,” said Sandy Pugh, who’s beginning her 15th season as head coach. “I’m real excited about this team. I think as we continue to grow and improve, there will be a very, very quality product on the floor, and I’m looking forward to the preseason.”
Southern, the defending Southwestern Athletic Conference champion and preseason pick to repeat, defeated Dillard 83-68 on Monday in an exhibition game.
Senior center Yasmine Nelson is expected to miss the first five games of the season because of an academic certification issue.
Southern men sign 3
Southern signed three men’s basketball recruits Thursday.
They are Derias Johnson, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Kimball High School in Dallas; Brendon Ganaway, a 5-10 point guard from Bush High School in Richland, Texas; and Shaquille Benson, a 6-10 center from Hahnville.
Southern hopes to sign a few more players before the end of the early signing period Tuesday, Banks said.
Women’s coach Sandy Pugh said she expects to announce the signing of a handful of recruits by the end of the signing period.