Southern women get two starters back, No. 1 seed _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Southern University Lady Jaguars head coach Sandy Pugh speaks to her players during a timeout against Alabama State, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015, at Southern's F.G. Clark Activity Center in Baton Rouge, La.

Southern’s position in the Southwestern Athletic Conference women’s tournament got a lot stronger Tuesday.

First, the Jaguars were elevated to the top seed and will face eighth-seeded Mississippi Valley State at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Toyota Center in Houston.

Secondly, and more importantly, two of the three starters who were among the seven suspended Monday – leading scorer Kendra Coleman and Cortnei Purnell – were reinstated and will be available for the entire tournament.

All of the changes were part of the continuing fallout from the SWAC’s decision to discipline Southern and Texas Southern for a brawl that took place during their showdown last Saturday in the regular-season finale.

Seven Jaguars and eight Lady Tigers were suspended and top-seeded TSU withdrew from the tournament Monday night because it didn’t have enough eligible players to field a team.

The SWAC also changed the original ruling that had given the Jaguars a share of the regular-season title when Saturday’s game was stopped when the altercation occurred with 12:37 left and Southern leading 51-49.

On Monday, the league ruled that both teams will receive a loss because fewer than 30 minutes were played. That left the Jaguars at 15-3 and gave TSU (16-2) an outright title.

Southern appealed its punishment and coach Sandy Pugh reacted to the decision on Twitter: “The decisions made in the last 24hrs have been mind boggling. Can’t believe our score was erased. And we were given a loss. 51-49 unreal!”

The Lady Tigers’ subsequent withdrawal led to Southern and the other seven teams in the tournament being seeded one spot higher Tuesday. The Jaguars had been scheduled to play Grambling at noon Wednesday.

Later Tuesday, the SWAC reinstated Coleman and Purnell, giving Southern eight players for their opener. The reinstatements were made “in light of additional video review by the Conference office”, according to a statement released by the Jaguars.

Pugh returned to Twitter to credit Southern athletic director William Broussard for the appeal.

“Long weekend and week so far,” she tweeted. “Will b good to get back to basketball. #Thankful to the AD staff for their hardwork n support thru it all.”

Southern will be without starting forward Jasmine Jefferson, a second-team all-SWAC player, but will have its other four starters – Coleman, Purnell, guard Bunny Scott and forward Briana Green as well as top reserve Britney Washington, the team’s second-leading scorer.

Jefferson will remain on the sideline with reserves Jadea Brundidge, Yasmine Nelson and Shaquandria Litmon, who will be eligible if the Jaguars advance beyond Wednesday’s quarterfinal game. Southern won both regular-season meetings with Valley, by 19 points at home and nine on the road.

Southern dismissed reserve guard Keonia Parrish, who was ticketed for a two-game suspension by the conference. The Jaguars also suspended forward Kenidi Robinson, who has been injured, for the rest of the season.

The tournament’s opening game between Valley and Alabama A&M scheduled for Tuesday night was canceled and the tournament will now begin with a game between No. 2 Jackson State and No. 7 Alabama A&M at noon Wednesday.

On Thursday, third-seeded Alabama State will play sixth-seeded Grambling, which was originally scheduled to face the Jaguars, at noon. Fourth-seeded Prairie View and fifth-seeded Alcorn State will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday and the winner of that game will meet the winner of the Southern game in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday.

The championship game will be at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff is not participating in the tournament because of NCAA probation.