JACKSON, Miss. — Jasmine Jefferson walked out of the visitors locker room Monday night and proclaimed what already was obvious.
“First let me say, finally,” Southern’s senior post player said, “that Jas Jefferson is back.”
Jefferson, a preseason all-Southwestern Athletic Conference player, has played below expectations for much of the season. But she had game-highs of 19 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Jaguars to a 77-61 victory against Jackson State in the Lee E. Williams Athletic and Assembly Center.
That performance came 48 hours after Jefferson missed 10 of 14 shots and had just five rebounds in an effort that epitomized the Jaguars’ lethargic 57-56 loss at Grambling.
“I was really happy with Jas,” Southern coach Sandy Pugh said, “because I really lit into her the last game — during and after.”
Pugh wasn’t enamored with any of the frontcourt play Saturday and she got positive responses across the board. Freshman Briana Green was 8-of-9 from the field and finished with 17 points and seven rebounds.
“I thought Brianna really played a tremendous ball game for a freshman,” Pugh said. “She didn’t look like a freshman the way she got out in transition.”
The Jaguars are down two post players because of injuries to Kenidi Robinson and Yasmine Nelson, but Jadea Brundidge came off the bench to chip in nine points and six rebounds in seven minutes.
“The way she practices is unbelievable,” Jefferson said of Brundidge. “I have a hard time guarding her. I think this was a big game for her.”
It was a big game for all the Jaguars (3-10), who evened their SWAC record at 2-2 heading home to play Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday.
“It’s been a long time coming, huh?” Pugh said of the Jaguars’ complete effort. “That’s what I’ve been looking for — that team effort, everybody on one page, everybody boxing and boarding, sharing the basketball and moving it, getting best shot we can get every trip. I was really happy to see the kids bounce back the way they did.”
Southern’s backcourt chipped in as Kendra Coleman scored 11 points and Britney Washington scored 10. The Jaguars shot 54 percent from the floor and had 18 assists on 28 field goals, which helped offset 25 turnovers.
The Tigers (5-10, 2-2) had one player in double figures as Kaylan Hughes scored 10.
Southern led 40-36 at halftime and Green and Jefferson quickly extended the lead. Green had nine points and an assist and Jefferson scored six as the Jaguars pushed the lead to 57-40.
Jackson State chipped away and got within 12 with nearly five minutes remaining, but Jefferson made a baseline jumper and Green hit a layup and Southern was in command the rest of the way.