LORMAN, Miss. — Southern’s women’s basketball team has won plenty this season, and Saturday the Jaguars inched one step closer to winning their ultimate prize.
Southern clubbed Alcorn State 75-55 in the Davey L. Whitney Complex and stands just one win away from its top goal: the Southwestern Athletic Conference regular-season championship and the top seed in the SWAC tournament.
“The prize is a regular-season title,” said Southern coach Sandy Pugh. “We want to be the No. 1 seed. That’s been our goal all year long.”
The Jaguars (14-11, 13-3 SWAC) are primed to earn at least a share of the regular-season title if they beat Texas Southern on Thursday in Baton Rouge. If Grambling also loses a game either Monday or Thursday, Southern would clinch the outright championship.
“It’s the end of the season,” Pugh said. “We have two games left. We want to put the hammer down. We don’t want to share nothing.”
Southern is guaranteed to finish in the top four of the conference and so will host a first-round SWAC tournament game at the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
As was revealed again Saturday, the Jaguars’ most threatening opponent may be themselves.
Combating the claustrophobic pressure of remaining in first place for consecutive weeks, along with school and the tiring haul of a five-month-long season, Southern has lost twice this month: at Grambling on Feb. 3 and at Alabama State last Saturday.
A third February loss wasn’t in the works. Southern jumped out to a 13-point lead, led 39-31 at halftime and won by 20.
But doubt surely crept in.
“We took the foot off the accelerator a little bit,” Pugh said. “We can’t be conservative. We’re here to win and we’ve got to do it convincingly.”
Alcorn State stumped Southern with a full-court press, which derailed Southern from the run-and-gun offensive style it prefers.
The Braves unleashed their best spurt of defense to bully Southern into a number of turnovers and careless offensive possessions in the third quarter, once cutting the Jaguars’ lead to five points.
“It kind of shocked us at first,” said forward Briana Green, “because we didn’t think they were going to press us. When it did happen, obviously we had some key turnovers we shouldn’t of had. Then we settled down, gained our composure.”
But with the most formidable and athletic defense in the conference, Southern simply overpowered Alcorn State in the fourth quarter. Green piled on points in the fourth quarter to finish with a team-high 17, her fourth consecutive game with 15 or more.
Sophomore guard Jaden Towner scored 10. Freshman forward Alyric Scott and senior guard Samantha Duncan each had 11. Alcorn State point guard Alexus Freeman posted 22.
Now, Southern is one win away.
"We want to maintain that this is Southern, and this is what we do," Pugh said.