Complacency can ruin a season.
The Southwestern Athletic Conference’s first-place Southern’s women’s basketball team has been superb this season. It has steamrolled 11 wins against three losses with the league’s most aggressive and athletic defense.
This point in the season, with four games left beginning at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Alabama A&M, the end of the season appeared as a destination where Southern's overachievement — the Jaguars were predicted by the league's coaches and sports information directors to finish fourth in the preseason — would be celebrated. Not so fast.
Last Monday, Southern struggled through an eight-point win against Mississippi Valley State, the SWAC’s last-place club, deepening a concern for coach Sandy Pugh.
Speed up to Saturday and Southern lost by two points at Alabama State in a game it missed 40 shots and 13 free throws.
Twenty-three games into the season, there’s not much more Pugh can do to correct the issues Southern successfully evaded during its climb to first since conference play began Jan. 1.
“Well, that’s just it,” Pugh said. “At this point, I coach. And they’ve got to do what they’ve been taught to do. You do that, everything tends to take care of itself. When you have people who are not doing their job on a consistent basis, that’s the cause for concern more than anything. They’ve just got to do their job.
“(I'm) just really concerned with our intensity and our focus. And our leadership that we’re showing from our point guards and seniors on the court.”
And now, when wins are at their highest value late in the season, Southern’s physically in trouble too.
Senior forward Briana Green, Southern’s leader in scoring with 16.2 points and rebounding at 6.8 rebounds, is questionable for Monday’s game in Huntsville, Alabama, after “twisting” her knee late in Saturday’s loss, Pugh said.
Freshman point guard Timaya Butler was ruled out by Pugh for Monday’s game after also suffering a knee injury Saturday. Butler is scheduled to undergo X-rays on Tuesday.
Southern, which has tied its longest winning streak of the season at four games, will tip off at 7:30 p.m. Monday against Alabama A&M.
Last time versus Alabama A&M, the Jaguars won 62-61 on Jan. 22 in the F.G. Clark Activity Center. Southern is 6-1 since then.
Southern (13-14, 9-5 SWAC) has moved into a two-way tie for second place in the SWAC with a win Saturday and Arkansas-Pine Bluff's 76-71 overtime loss to Prairie View A&M.