The Southern men’s basketball team is starting to look different than it did at the beginning of the season.
The Jaguars (3-8) have yet to win on the road, but played their most competitive game in seven road games when they lost to then-No. 14 Iowa State 88-78 on Dec. 14. They followed that with a 114-50 victory against Champion Baptist at home Tuesday night.
Now it’s back to the road for games at Wyoming (9-2) at 3 p.m. Saturday and at Baylor on Monday.
“I think this team has shown just by what we’ve done, how much different we are now versus where we were early on,” coach Roman Banks said.
He called the return of guard Tre Lynch, who missed the first five games because of a sprained ankle, “a big deal for us.”
Lynch has provided a significant offensive boost off the bench in the last six games. He leads the team with an average of 15.5 points.
“He makes a big difference,” guard Trelun Banks said. “He adds another scorer. He spreads out our offense and that gives a greater chance for our bigs to play. Teams can’t help as much and it helps me because I don’t have to do as much as when he wasn’t here.”
Southern, which has been starting three guards, may have found its best frontcourt combination in Keith Davis and Jared Sam, who have started together the last three games.
Davis, a senior from Dallas who sat out last season after transferring from Texas A&M, had 22 points, making 11-of-14 shots, and nine rebounds against Champion Baptist. In the last three games he has averaged 13.7 points and 4.3 rebounds and made 18-of-22 shots.
“His physical presence and catching the ball in the post have been tremendous the last couple of games,” coach Banks said. “He’s not there yet. He’s got to keep growing, but I think as we go along he’ll be big for us. He still needs to get more dominant on the defensive end as well.”
Sam, a freshman from Scotlandville, has had a bigger impact on the defensive end. He has started the last four games and averaged 6.3 points and 6.5 rebounds and made 10-of-13 shots. He had a double-double against Champion Baptist, finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He made all five of his field-goal attempts.
“This coaching staff and this team reward hard work,” coach Banks said. “When Keith Davis and Frank Snow were struggling a little bit early this season, Jared was consistent. Defensively he was always consistent with his effort.
“We’re going to reward effort, whether it’s the first game, the 10th game or the 20th game of the season. If you’re not giving that effort I’m going to sit you down — and not just sit you down but maybe talk to you and try to get you going. He plays his role 100 percent and maxes out. You need guys that understand their role.”
Wyoming hasn’t played since a 70-61 home victory against Montana State last Sunday. The Cowboys have won 15 of their last 16 home games in December.
They have shot better than 50 percent in each of their nine wins this season and rank seventh nationally in field goal percentage (51).
Wyoming is fourth in the country in scoring defense (50.8) and fifth in fewest fouls (13.7 per game).
Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.