The Southern University women’s basketball team finally chalked up its first win of the season Monday, and it would seem like a weight was lifted off the players’ shoulders.
But after edging Southeastern Louisiana 59-56, Southern coach Sandy Pugh stressed the opposite mindset, quoting Alabama football coach Nick Saban to her team after the victory.
“You shouldn’t be relieved by winning. You should always expect to win,” Pugh said. “My expectation every time we hit the floor is to win, and we’ve got to play like that.”
The Jaguars (1-9) are taking that approach into their final game before entering Southwestern Athletic Conference as they travel to Columbus, Ohio, to face Ohio State on Friday.
Ohio State (7-3) entered the season ranked No. 19 in the nation and climbed to No. 15 before dropping from the rankings this past week after a seven-point loss to Washington State.
The cards are stacked against Southern heading into the contest, but Pugh is hoping the Jaguars will ride the wave from their previous win and defeat the odds by beating the Buckeyes.
“We’re going forward from here and go into Ohio State (doing) what some people think we’re capable of doing, and that’s beating Ohio State,” Pugh said. “As a matter of fact, one of the coaches that we played against previously said, ‘Ohio State doesn’t want to see you guys if you guys get this thing together.’
“I really think this team is getting it together. They’re going to be fun to watch.”
Pugh said her team turned a corner two weeks ago when it made a trip to New York for two games. Southern still suffered two losses on the weekend, but the Jaguars gained “camaraderie, teamwork and chemistry” on the trip, which Pugh said translated into better play on the court and a new mindset going forward.
“We had some little internal squabbles — you’re dealing with girls — but, I think, all in all, they get to a certain point where they’re just around each other so much and they kind of have to step away from that,” Pugh said. “Between now and the first conference game, every day we need to be working toward a championship. Our focus has to change.
“I think a lot of people put more pressure on the kids than I did in terms of winning the game. My whole philosophy is you can go 0-11 as long as you improve with each game. It’s all about getting better and improving and doing the little things correctly.”
Pugh said she’s seen that improvement so far this season, but stressed a need for better defense.
The Jaguars have allowed an average of 63 points per game this season and are facing an Ohio State squad that scores nearly 72 points per outing. Couple that with the injury bug that has plagued Southern from the start of the season, and the Jaguars have a tall task at hand.
“Our biggest thing all year has been the injuries,” Pugh said. “But we’ve got to guard better off the dribble, and we’ve got to do a better job on our exchanges with the on-ball screens. We’re going to work some more on our defense, and hopefully we’ll be ready to go.”