NORMAL, Ala. — Southern’s four-game winning streak appeared to be in jeopardy Monday night when Alabama A&M trimmed a 16-point lead to six points with just over seven minutes remaining. Evan Wiley’s 3-pointer capped a 10-0 Alabama A&M run and pulled the Bulldogs within 48-42 at the 7:04 mark.
However, the Jaguars regrouped and regained control and cruised the rest of the way.
Southern countered Alabama A&M’s run with a 12-1 run of its own enroute to a 60-50 victory at Elmore Gymnasium.
“Basketball is a game of runs,” said Southern forward Jared Sam, who finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high four blocked shots. “Alabama A&M found a little energy and made some shots, but we stayed the course and came away with the win.”
Southern improved to 14-14 overall and 9-6 in league play with the victory. Alabama A&M fell to 2-25 and 2-12.
The game was competitive for much of the first half before Southern made a late push, using an 8-2 run, to take a 35-25 advantage at intermission. Sam had 14 of his team-high 20 points at halftime on 5-of-7 shooting, many of them around the basket.
“We knew we had a big size advantage and we wanted to play inside out,” said Sam, who is 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds. “If they collapsed inside, we were going to kick it out to our shooters.”
The Jaguars increased their lead to 48-32 midway through the second half and appeared to be on their way to an easy victory. However, the Bulldogs found some life, using a 10-0 run to pull within six with just over seven minutes on a 3-pointer by Evan Wiley.
“We knew Alabama A&M was going to fight,” Southern coach Morris Scott said. “They’re going to compete regardless of the score. They’re a scrappy team and they went with their smaller lineup and made a run at us.
“Fortunately, we were able to lock in defensively and close the game out.”
The Bulldogs managed just eight points the rest of way.
Emanuel Shepherd backed Sam with 10 points. Eight of them came in the last five minutes when the Jaguars put the game away.
“We’ve challenged Shepherd to be more aggressive,” Scott said. “He’s playing real confident right now. He was huge for us.”
Arthur Johnson led Alabama A&M with a game-high 22 points and 10 rebounds. Brandon Houston added 11.
“To come in here after an emotional win at Alabama State, it would have been easy for us to come in here and expect a letdown,” Scott said. “Our kids really bounced back and were ready to play. This is a big win for us. This is the first time we’ve swept a road trip in conference play and it feels good.”