When play resumed Monday night after a late Jackson State timeout, the Southern women’s basketball team still had two fouls to give before the Tigers would be in the bonus.
So coach Sandy Pugh instructed her players to commit a foul right after the inbound, a strategy meant to run a couple of seconds off the clock and do Southern no harm in the process.
But a foul was never committed — or, the way Pugh saw it, called — as JSU executed a pair of passes to get the ball upcourt.
Thankfully for Pugh, the Southern defense made a stop near its own basket in the final seconds, securing a 56-54 win before 1,755 fans at the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
“These kind of games, you hope the kids have built up enough character and courage that they can survive it,” Pugh said. “I’m just thankful for the win.”
Southern improved to 3-0 against Southwestern Athletic Conference opponents in games decided by single digits.
The latest escape came only two days after Southern blew a big lead to rival Grambling but held on for an 83-81 win in double overtime.
Southern’s top three scorers all showed up in a big way as Kendra Coleman led the team with 15 points, Adrian Sanders added 12, and Lechell Rush put up 10 points and 10 rebounds for her second straight double-double.
But Pugh said it was junior reserve Yasmin Fuller, with nine points, who made the difference.
Fuller provided the game’s most memorable — and perhaps most important — points when she raced down the court with about a minute to play, used a crossover to shake a JSU defender near the top of the key and got into the lane for the final margin.
“I think Fuller decided she wasn’t going to let us lose,” Pugh said. “She decided she was going to put us on her shoulders and go get it done.”
In picking up its seventh straight win to remain atop the SWAC standings, Southern (11-11, 10-1) stopped a JSU winning streak that had reached five games.
Kewara Ndongo led three Tigers (8-12, 5-6) in double figures with a game-high 18 points.
Two more by Ndongo would have forced overtime.
JSU had one last chance to stay in a game that featured 11 lead changes when coach Surina Dixon called timeout after a defensive rebound with eight seconds left.
But Ndongo missed the mark on a short-range jumper after Southern failed to foul, and teammate Dominque Brothern missed everything on a wild putback try.
A missed jumper by Laneisha Stephens set up JSU’s shot at the end.
JSU led by seven points on three occasions in the second half. Southern never led by more than four.