Southern got one big man back and lost another.
Center Frank Snow returned from a four-game absence due to a broken hand, but forward Jared Sam was lost due to an ankle injury during the Jaguars’ 72-63 victory against Alabama A&M on Saturday night in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
Southern was able to withstand Sam’s absence, but it could become a bigger issue if he’s unable to play against Alabama State on Monday in the Clark Activity Center. The Jaguars (14-14 overall) are 11-3 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and trailed first-place Alabama State and Texas Southern by one game entering play saturday. A&M fell to 6-7 and 7-16.
“One comes back and another one goes,” said Southern coach Roman Banks, who didn’t immediately know Sam’s status for Monday. “With the style of basketball that we play we need all of our parts to be pretty good.”
The frontcourt got further depleted when Keith Davis fouled out with 5:40 remaining and Southern holding a five-point lead. Snow played 16 minutes in his first action in three weeks and finished with seven points, four rebounds, one blocked shot and one steal.
“I was a little rusty but the hand felt good,” Snow said. “I didn’t expect to play much at all, but I’m glad I was able to help.”
While Banks was trying to keep the frontcourt stitched together, Trelun Banks, Tre Lynch, Adrian Rodgers and Christopher Hyder were taking turns providing an offensive spark from the backcourt.
“All the guards scored in a timely manner,” coach Banks said. “They did a good job of stopping our dry spells.”
Lynch had a team-high 15 points, Banks and Rodgers scored 13 each and Hyder had seven points, six assists, five rebounds and a steal in 38 minutes.
“We hit some timely shots,” Hyder said. “Once we started getting some baskets inside it created the space we needed on the outside.”
Southern led by one point at halftime, but quickly extended the margin to double digits in the second half.
Rodgers made a baseline jumper 40 seconds in and Banks followed with a jumper from the lane.
Hyder converted a three-point play on a put-back and fed Joell Hopkins for a layup. Banks’ 3-pointer completed a 12-0 run that gave the Jaguars a 46-33 lead.
Michael Hutchins’ three-point play ended the run and Nicolas West led an A&M comeback. West scored 11 points as the Bulldogs got within 61-58 with 7½ minutes left.
Cameron Monroe’s layup pushed the lead to five shortly before Davis fouled out and Snow returned.
A&M went 5½ minutes without a field goal and the Jaguars gradually extended the lead. Rodgers made a jumper from the foul line and Snow scored on a put-back and Hopkins made a tip-in for a 69-58 lead with 2½ minutes left.
“We got some stops when we needed them,” Hyder said. “The big thing was we didn’t give them second chances. Sometimes we get the initial stop but we don’t get the rebound. We were strong rebounding tonight.”
Despite the limitations in the frontcourt, the Jaguars outrebounded the Bulldogs 40-35 as nine different players had at least one.
“The team effort was great,” Rodgers said.
Ladarius Tabb led A&M with 17 points, West had 12 and Rakiya Battle 11. Tabb and West each scored 10 in the second half.
Sam injured the ankle when he landed awkwardly on the floor after grabbing an offensive rebound with four minutes left in the first half.
Moments after he was helped to the locker room, Banks made a jumper to even the score at 28.
Battle scored on a drive for A&M, but Banks answered with a 3-pointer and Davis made a free throw.
A three-point play by Battle put the Bulldogs back ahead briefly before Lynch’s two free throws with 32 seconds left gave Southern a 34-33 halftime lead.
Sam returned on crutches to a seat behind the bench from which he watched the second half with his right leg propped up. Hopkins took his place in the starting lineup in the second half and finished with six points, three rebounds and two blocks in 22 minutes. He would have scored more if he hadn’t missed all six of his free throws.
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.