LORMAN, Miss. — The Southern women’s basketball team finished the first half of the Southwestern Athletic Conference schedule atop the league standings thanks to Saturday’s 64-53 victory over Alcorn State.
The hard part to figure is how the Jaguars struggled against the two teams at the rear of the race.
A few weeks after giving Grambling its first victory of the SWAC season in a 16-point decision, Southern (9-11, 8-1) often looked on the verge of defeat against Alcorn, needing a 9-2 run in the final 1:16 to secure its sixth straight double-digit win.
Alcorn (1-17, 1-8) finished the SWAC’s first half in last place, neck-and-neck with Grambling for that position.
“I think they looked at 1-7 and thought we were going to cruise,” Southern coach Sandy Pugh said of the Jaguars.
Southern had to overcome an early 16-9 deficit — then hold on as Alcorn guard Carolinsia Crumbly led a pesky second-half charge — to make sure it left the Davey L. Whitney Complex with its first-place status still in one piece.
In the process, the Jaguars completed their annual Alabama State-Alabama A&M-Alcorn road swing 3-0 for only the third time in Pugh’s 13 seasons.
They have a full week off before getting their rematch with Grambling on Saturday at the F.G. Clark Activity Center. Southern will celebrate “Alumni Night” and honor former basketball great Avery Johnson.
“We’re just fortunate to get a win on the road the way we played,” Pugh said. “We’ll take it.”
Yasmin Fuller led Southern with 17 points, followed by Lechell Rush with 12 and Adrian Sanders with 10. Rush also had nine rebounds.
Fuller had 14 points in the second half, triggering a Southern offense that shot only 39.1 percent over the first 20 minutes.
With the Jaguars nursing a 55-51 lead and 1:16 to play, Fuller scored inside, drew a foul by Alexis Martin and completed the three-point play with a free throw. Pugh pumped her fist on the Southern sideline.
“I thought she got us going with the runouts,” Pugh said of Fuller, “because we were struggling with our halfcourt sets.”
Alcorn couldn’t hold its early seven-point advantage, but the Braves trailed only 22-20 going into the half. Southern eventually went up by as much as 41-31 with 10:32 remaining before Alcorn began to chip away.
Crumbly finished with a game-high 18 points, cutting and knifing through the lane and using her speed to jet by defenders.
But the Jaguars were able to hold on for the win and maintain their perch atop the SWAC standings.