Nothing was flashy.
Offenses dulled and defenses dictated.
Such is the way in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, so Monday's game between Southern and Jackson State isn't uncommon. The SWAC’s full of 40-minute bouts powered by defenses attempting to force an equally capable roster to stumble through a night and stagger toward a loss.
Punch for punch, Southern and Jackson State remained standing for as long as possible. Defense, defense and a sequestered offense later, Southern finally fell.
The Jaguars (5-12, 1-3 SWAC) sustained a 65-61 defeat to Jackson State, sullying their 5-0 record in Baton Rouge.
"It's a tough loss," said Southern coach Morris Scott. "It's a tough one to let go, especially when you control it for pretty much the whole entire game."
Southern returned an injured starter in the four-point loss and didn’t have any eye-popping offensive performances from any of its 12 players used.
It was a low-scoring affair credited directly to defense.
Jared Sam, Southern’s senior leading scorer and rebounder through 17 games, posted 22 points and 13 rebounds. Six Jaguars finished with 10 or fewer points, ranging from forward Sidney Umude’s 10 to starting point guard Torrey Mayo’s two.
"You could say it's very weird being our first (home) loss," Sam said after charting his career-high sixth double-double. "We gave that one away."
Chris Thomas, a starting senior guard, returned from an ankle injury Monday from a two-game absence. Thomas, who rolled his ankle Jan. 1 at Texas Southern, missed Southern’s past two games as swelling in the ankle continued.
Jackson State, the SWAC’s leader in scoring defense, rallied from a 37-26 deficit at halftime to force a 54-54 tie with less than five minutes remaining on the second-half clock.
The Tigers continued pop Southern’s defense, taking a three-point lead with 3:06 to go, and snagged a pair of offensive rebounds and an old-fashioned three-point play on the same possession to capture a 60-56 lead with 2:00 remaining.
Jackson State threw the final punches. Southern committed its 14th turnover with less than a minute until the final buzzer. Sam knocked in a turnaround jumper to shrink Jackson State's lead to one point at 60-59 before the Tigers scored five more to finalize their win.
"We had a couple of just bad possessions, turning the basketball over and doing things we don't normally do," Scott said. "We kind of had control of the tempo the whole entire game ... Then we had a couple of bad possessions."
"We lost one today," Sam said. "But we'll shake back next week."