HOUSTON — After Thursday night’s 28-point win over Prairie View, Sandy Pugh said this is the best Southern women’s basketball team she has ever coached.
A win Saturday against Texas Southern in the Southwestern Athletic Conference finale would put an exclamation mark on that claim.
“This really is my all-time favorite,” Pugh said. “They are a team in every sense of the word. This is the most team-oriented group I’ve ever coached. They genuinely care about each other and are enjoying every moment.”
A victory against the Tigers at 5:30 p.m. at H&PE Arena would give Southern a share of a second straight regular season conference championship.
Depending on the final score, it could also land the Jaguars the top seed in the SWAC tournament, which begins March 10 at the Toyota Center.
Southern (17-10, 15-2) would need to beat TSU (19-9, 16-1) by more than 14 points to win the seeding tie-breaker. Either way, the teams will be on opposite sides of the bracket.
“We’ve been on a collision course for some time,” Pugh said. “It would be a perfect storm for us to beat Prairie View and then go over there and beat them.”
TSU wrapped up at least a share of the title Thursday when it beat Alcorn 73-55 for its 14th straight win. Alexus Johnson scored a career high 28 points with 11 rebounds, while Diamonisha Sophus added 18 points.
Saturday’s game will be a rematch of last year’s conference finale, which also had the conference title on the line. Southern overcame a seven-point halftime deficit to win the game and title.
“Texas Southern is extremely athletic and is playing well too,” Pugh said. “It should be a good game for the conference and good for women’s basketball.”
While Southern has gotten great leadership from seniors like Kendra Coleman and Jasmine Jefferson, it was the continuing emergence of a freshman Thursday night that proves the future could be just as bright for Southern.
Forward Briana Green made 10-of-14 shots in scoring a career high 23 against the Panthers. She also pulled down six rebounds.
“I was real nervous when the season started, but I’m getting more confident now in my game,” Green said. “I’m just happy to have the opportunity to show what I can do.”
Added Pugh: “Briana is invaluable to us. She had an opportunity to get a lot of games under her belt, and it has paid off.
“She is shooting the mid-range jumper with confidence, and she can guard on the perimeter. She has been that ‘it’ factor for us right now.”
Green also provides the Jaguars with another weapon on a very balanced team. Senior Kendra Coleman lead SU with 13.9 points a game, followed by Britney Washington (12.8) and Jefferson (10.2).
After Thursday’s win, the Jaguars now have a fourth player in double figures with Green now averaging 10.1.
“She is playing tremendous and is giving us good minutes,” Coleman said. “I love the effort she gave (Thursday). She gave us some good energy running the floor and got a lot of easy baskets.”
Green was a big part of a 20-0 run in the game’s first 12 minutes that keyed the victory. SU shot 55 percent from the field — including 5-of-7 from 3-point range — and made 15 of 20 free throws.
Now, the Jaguars look to keep the momentum rolling with what could be their 16th straight conference win since losing to Texas Southern and Grambling in early January.
“We started from the bottom, and now we are here,” Pugh said. “This whole cycle has been one game at a time. I’m just proud of these kids, and I think they will be ready to go Saturday.”