Southern can’t escape games like these.
These contests decided by one point, sometimes two, between the Jaguars and whichever Southwestern Athletic Conference opponent they face that night.
In Southern’s 63-61 win Saturday against Alabama State, the Jaguars avoided a crushing home loss in a game in which they never trailed.
Southern was taken to overtime by Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Mississippi Valley State in its previous two games.
These games — too close for Southern’s comfort — won’t go away.
“Knowing it's going to be tough, we've just got to keep grinding it out," said Eddie Reese, Southern's leading scorer with 14 points.
Forward Jared Sam added nine points, a quiet night by his lofty standards.
With 3.2 seconds to go, Alabama State guard Reginald Gee, who finished with a game-high 20 points, buried a 3-pointer multiple feet behind the perimeter arc, chipping Southern’s lead to 62-61.
“Kind of a bonehead defensive play right there,” Southern coach Morris Scott said. “We said we were going to push up and guard. But we backpedaled a little bit, not thinking that he would shoot it from that deep.”
Southern and Alabama State mirrored each other with methodical offenses, each working deep into the shot clock searching for the cleanest possible attempt. Unless a turnover was forced, possessions weren’t plentiful and often weren't fruitful.
Southern’s riling defense forced Alabama State (3-15, 3-3 SWAC) into plenty of poor possessions. The Hornets made just five first-half field goals and shot 10 of 37 through the first 30 minutes.
“They kind of play that grind-it-out style,” Scott said. “It’s going to be a slow-pedaling game, going through the mud a little bit.”
In the final 10 minutes Alabama State drug Southern through a 16-5 run to give itself a chance.
“When you're playing those guys, it'll be one of those games where you've got to grind," Scott said. "But we (had) to find a way to get the job done."