Southern coach Sandy Pugh stared into a camera owned by a local television station Saturday afternoon and delivered a message for whomever was watching or listening.
“To see them cutting those nets down in Houston, that’s our goal,” Pugh said. “Houston, we're coming to see you, baby!”
After winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference regular-season title Saturday, the Jaguars’ first step toward acquiring yet another trophy began Tuesday, when No. 1 seed Southern defeated No. 8 Arkansas-Pine Bluff 70-60 at the F.G. Clark Activity Center in the 2018 SWAC tournament quarterfinals.
Southern (16-12) will advance to play No. 4 Prairie View A&M — which defeated No. 5 Jackson State 66-64 on Tuesday — at noon for Friday's semifinal inside the Delmar Fieldhouse in Houston.
Devoid of reliable ball handlers, Southern’s typical swarming defense was once again unrelenting against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
The Golden Lions’ offense became Southern’s most recent causality in a season-long resume of suffocating opponents with a menacing full-court pressure, which forced 18 Arkansas-Pine Bluff turnovers before halftime and 24 total.
Southern’s offense, however, needed time to come alive.
The Jaguars made 19 of 62 shots, regardless of forcing two dozen turnovers on defense. Southern led 26-17 at halftime and required a significant uptick in performance to handle lowly Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the final quarters.
"We held them down," UAPB coach Nate Kilbert said. "We just couldn't score."
That energy boost came late in the third quarter.
"That was a big turning point for us," said Southern senior forward Briana Green, who scored a game-high 28 points.
Before Southern used an 11-0 run to create leeway away from a 40-40 tie in the third, it appeared dispirited with a clear absence of normal effectiveness.
"We missed a lot of shots that we normally hit," Pugh said. "I thought we were just in a rush ... Even when they came back and tied the score, there was a never a doubt in my mind that we wouldn't step our game up and do what we do."
In their final home game as seniors, guard Samantha Duncan added 10 points beside Green's 28, her third consecutive game with 27 or more.
Nevertheless, Southern (16-12) will advance.
The Jaguars bludgeoned Prairie View 96-58 in their regular-season finale Saturday afternoon, evening the season series at 1-1. The Panthers defeated Southern 69-62 on Jan. 3, Southern’s second conference game of the season.
Should Southern win Friday, the SWAC tournament championship game is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Houston and will be televised on ESPN3, the online-only streaming service.
"I'm happy to be going on," Pugh said. "When we get there, hopefully we'll put together two back-to-back good nights and bring some more hardware back to Baton Rouge."