Saturday night, shortly after the Southern University men’s basketball team lost to Northern Colorado on the final day of the South Padre Island Invitational, players, coaches and trainers boarded a bus and prepared for a long ride home.
Typically, the trip from coastal Texas to Baton Rouge lasts about 11 hours. Southern’s bus was equipped with televisions and DVD players, and naturally, on trips such as these, players pass the time by watching movies.
This time, first-year coach Roman Banks didn’t allow it. Not at first, anyway.
“I went through that game film twice before I let them watch a movie,” he said.
What they saw was a taller, more muscular Northern Colorado team that dominated SU around the goal, grabbing 13 more rebounds and scoring 19 second-chance points.
The good news: Southern’s next trip isn’t anywhere close to 11 hours. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, the Jaguars (2-4) face Tulane at Fogelman Arena in New Orleans.
The not-so-good news: The Green Wave (7-0) is off to a hot start. In starting this season with seven straight wins, Tulane has, among other things, done a little inside dirty work.
This season, the Wave has outrebounded opponents by an average of seven per game, blocked 4.9 shots per game, and made nearly 46 percent of its shots from the floor.
In other words, Wednesday’s trip will be another tall order for Southern.
Already this season, Banks has said the Jaguars will be undersized in many games, if not most of them. Quinton Doggett, the team’s tallest starter at 6-foot-8, had no rebounds Saturday. Fred Coleman is one of the team’s hardest workers, but at 6-6, he often gives up several inches to opposing post players. And center Madut Bol, at 6-9, is often more adept at making midrange jumpers.
Still, Banks said, Southern can’t use its lack of size as an excuse.
Yes, the Jaguars will have to beat some opponents with hot outside shooting; for now, they’re shooting 29 percent from 3-point range, and guards Jameel Grace, Russell Hill and Mike Celestin have all taken turns leading the team in scoring.
But they still need a rebounding and scoring presence in the post.
“We’ve just got to find a way to get something done down there,” Banks said. “Between Doggett, Fred Coleman and Madut, we really need to get 20-plus rebounds between those three. We have to get more fight inside than we’ve been getting.”
They’ll be in for quite a fight against Tulane. In its second year under coach Ed Conroy, the Green Wave defeated Alcorn State, UNO and San Diego on consecutive days to win the Hoops for Hope Classic last weekend in New Orleans.
The team was led by a stout frontcourt, which includes 6-8 Josh Davis, an N.C. State transfer, and 7-0 center Tom?s Bruha - both of whom posted double-doubles in the win over San Diego.
Southern has spent the past few days working on ways to slow down the Green Wave inside - something it didn’t have time to do against Northern Colorado, whom the Jaguars played one day after defeating Florida A&M 64-61.
“We’ll look at maybe trapping them down low if we can’t face them one-on-one,” Banks said. “These guys are tall, but I don’t think they have as much muscle, as much size as some of the guys we’ve played. ...
“One way or the other, the games we’ve been playing against and the experience we get from it - that’ll help us down the road.”
Of course, Southern has been down a long road already.