The Southern men’s basketball team has experienced highs and lows this season.
The Jaguars beat a Southeastern Conference team for the second time in coach Roman Banks’ four seasons when they upset Mississippi State, and they finished a difficult nonconference schedule with an 8-5 record.
But since then, they have begun Southwestern Athletic Conference play 0-2 for the first time under Banks, losing 88-66 at Texas Southern and 71-65 at Prairie View.
Southern has lost three straight and five of six going into its conference home opener against Grambling (4-9, 2-0) at 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the F.G. Clark Activity Center. The game will air on CST and WXOK-AM, 1460.
“No one is more disappointed than the team,” Banks said. “We have high expectations every year, and every time we step on the court.”
Banks said the Jaguars “haven’t played well” since forward D’Adrian Allen was sidelined by a severely sprained ankle four minutes into a 74-53 loss to Nebraska-Omaha on Dec. 22, which started the losing streak.
Allen won’t play Saturday or on Monday, when Southern hosts Jackson State.
Tony Nunn has started in Allen’s place but averaged just 15.5 minutes because of foul trouble. He committed two fouls in the first 92 seconds against Prairie View, further complicating Banks’ rotation.
“The chemistry hasn’t been the same,” Banks said. “Talent is good, but you win your games off of your chemistry.”
Banks said he’s planning to move guard Adrian Rodgers into the frontcourt. That would create an opening for Shawn Prudhomme or Chris Thomas to move into the starting lineup.
“We’re going to play small ball and try and get bigger at the end,” Banks said.
With Allen sidelined, Southern has just two players on the bench who are averaging as many as 8 minutes.
Southern leads the SWAC in scoring at 73.1 points per game but, after one weekend of conference play, it’s tied with Grambling for last in scoring defense (79.5). Generally under Banks, the Jaguars have been ranked much higher defensively than offensively.
“We’re not defending to the point that Southern University teams have been known to defend,” he said. “We’re scoring a lot more points, but we have to balance that out.”
Grambling has won consecutive games for the first time since 2011, and it’s 2-0 in the SWAC for the first time since 1994, having won overtime games against Alabama A&M (81-78) and Alabama State (84-81).
The victory against Alabama A&M ended the Tigers’ 37-game losing streak against Division I teams. Grambling was picked to finish last in the SWAC by the league’s coaches and sports information directors, and at least one website picked it as the worst team in Division I.
“They’ve gotten better on the perimeter,” Banks said. “They’ve got some guys that can create their own shot and create for someone else.”
The Tigers have not beaten Southern since Banks has been coach, going 0-6 against his teams and losing the last eight to the Jaguars. But the start of this SWAC season has been very different for Grambling.
As for the Jaguars, who also have beaten Wyoming, Tulane and Southeastern Louisiana, aside from missing Allen, Banks said, “These are the same kids that beat the other teams.”