Southern’s frontcourt was a question mark coming into this season.
The Jaguars had limited experience there after its top two returning players — Calvin Godfrey and Damien Goodwin — transferred. They did have two 6-foot-10 players in Frank Snow and Keith Davis, but otherwise were relatively undersized.
Despite the limitations, the frontcourt has improved over the course of the season and Southern has mostly held its own in rebounding. Even after losing Snow for three weeks to a broken hand the Jaguars out-rebounded Grambling by five in a 58-50 victory a week ago.
But on Monday night, the frontcourt shortcomings were exposed by a physical Jackson State team in its 62-52 victory against the Jaguars.
The Tigers grabbed 21 offensive rebounds, which helped them outscore Southern decisively in second-chance points (21-4) and points in the paint (30-12).
“(Rebounding) was one of the weaknesses of this club coming into the year,” coach Roman Banks said. “We’re trying to get better right now and I thought we were getting better at it, but they really brought it to our attention that we need to continue to work hard to rebound the basketball. We haven’t really out-rebounded anybody well all year long.”
Fortunately for Southern (8-3 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and 11-14 overall), it doesn’t figure to have the same kind of mismatch when it visits Arkansas-Pine Bluff (3-8, 5-17) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Jaguars are fifth in the SWAC in rebound margin (minus-0.1) and the Golden Lions are ninth (minus-3.4). In conference play, Southern is second in offensive rebounds (37.1), but last in defensive rebounds (37.2). UAPB is last in offensive rebounding (31.0), but fourth in defensive rebounding (34.4).
When the Jaguars beat the Golden Lions 70-60 on Jan. 17 in the F.G. Clark Activity Center, they had a nine-rebound advantage, their largest in any SWAC game this season.
Southern has had the rebounding edge in seven of its 11 SWAC games, but when it has been out-rebounded it has generally been by a significant margin. The deficit was by more than 10 in three of the four games and the average margin in those games was 11.
“Right now we’re not a very tough team in the trenches,” Banks said. “That’s been one of our concerns – when we’ve got to bump and grind, can we make plays? That’s one of our weak areas and we have to get better at it.”
The Jaguars start 6-foot-9 Jared Sam alongside Davis and alongside Snow when he was healthy. But when they go to the bench now, they go to Joell Hopkins or Elex Carter, both of whom are 6-7.
Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.