The Southern women’s basketball team concludes the first half of the Southwestern Athletic Conference season when it visits Alcorn State at 3 p.m. Saturday.
The Jaguars (6-2 and 8-10 overall) have come a long way since a rocky start to the conference schedule.
The preseason favorite lost two its first three games, matching its loss total during its title run last season.
But since then, Southern has won five straight and only its last victory (53-49 at Alabama State on Monday) was by fewer than 16 points.
“We’re playing more as a team,” guard Britney Washington said. “At first, coach (Sandy Pugh) was telling us that we were taking the ‘me shot’ instead of the ‘we shot’. We’ve gotten better, and we’re moving the ball better.
“We’re taking more looks at the post. Our in-and-out game is a lot better. That’s something coach has been stressing. We’ve been playing better as a team the last few games. We’ve got better chemistry in practice and in games.”
Washington leads the team in scoring (13.4), followed by fellow guard Kendra Coleman 12.2. But the added emphasis on getting the ball inside has yielded more points from Jasmine Jefferson and Briana Green in the frontcourt, the third- and fourth-leading scorers, respectively.
After opening SWAC play with a victory against Prairie View, the Jaguars lost back-to-back games to Texas Southern and Grambling.
“After the Grambling game, I thought that we really needed to reassess some things and we did,” Pugh said. “The kids came back and recommitted to what we needed to be doing, which has brought us this far.
“It’s understanding who needs to take the shot and when, getting the ball to the right people and Jas. Jas has stepped her game up two notches and she’s playing with a lot of confidence right now. She’s shooting the basketball very well, which has given us a presence in the lane, something we didn’t have in the preseason. If she’s consistent then we’re consistent.”
Southern responded to the loss to Grambling with a 77-61 victory at Jackson State, which Coleman called a turning point.
Pugh also has been stressing rebounding during the streak, and before the last game she especially emphasized getting more players attacking the boards. The team responded as guard Bonnie Scott led the team with nine rebounds and 10 players had at least two.
Overall, Pugh said she’d still like to her team be more consistent. The Jaguars got careless with the basketball down the stretch at Alabama State. They made just one field goal in the final nine minutes and committed seven of their 21 turnovers during that stretch.
“I didn’t think we made very good decisions the last five or six minutes of the Alabama State game,” she said. “We took some shots that we shouldn’t have taken early in the shot clock. I thought we lost our composure.
“Our guards have to take care of the basketball and make better decisions. We still have one of the best teams in the conference. I just think we have to do a better job of getting the others involved in scoring.”
The Lady Braves are 5-3 and 6-11.
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.