LORMAN, Miss. — Virtually everything that could have gone wrong for the Southern women’s basketball team did in the first half against Alcorn State on Saturday.
They lost both of their starting post players as Jasmine Jefferson suffered a cut lip 2½ minutes into the game and sat for 13 minutes. A minute and half after Jefferson left, Briana Green joined her on the bench after committing her second foul.
“Jas went down, and she’s our heart and soul,” coach Sandy Pugh said. “I think that affected everybody.”
It affected them so much that the Jaguars made just 2-of-18 field goals and were out-rebounded 16-3 in falling behind 30-13 at halftime.
But Southern turned things around 180 degrees in the second half and came away with a 59-51 victory in the Davey L. Whitney Complex. The Jaguars’ sixth win in a row improved them to 7-2 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and 9-10 overall as they prepare to host Grambling next Saturday. The Lady Braves (5-4, 6-12) missed out on an opportunity to tie Southern for second place.
“I knew that if we came out and played the level of basketball that we’re capable of (in the second half),” Pugh said, “we would have a shot.”
The Jaguars opened the second half with a full-court press, and it set the tone for the turnaround, which ended with Southern having 15 steals and Alcorn having 28 turnovers.
“The game plan was to come out and trap really hard and force some turnovers,” Jefferson said.
Southern showed much more energy and cut the deficit to nine as Green scored four points and Jefferson two to finish an 11-3 start.
“I turned to my assistants,” Pugh said, “and told them, ‘We’re right back in it.’”
Ashley Williams had a put-back and a layup that helped pull the Jaguars within 37-36 with nine minutes left.
The Lady Braves rebuilt the lead to five before the Jaguars cut it to one again. Southern finally took its first lead of the game at 46-45 when Jefferson made two free throws with 6:11 left.
“We got it down to one, then it kept being one and three, back and forth,” Pugh said. “When we finally took the lead I was like, ‘We’re going to win this game.’”
Alcorn wasn’t as convinced as it regained the lead at 47-46 and grabbed a 51-48 lead with 2½ minutes left. But the Lady Braves didn’t score again.
Williams’ 3-pointer tied it and triggered an 11-0 run to finish.
“The 3-point shot was huge,” Pugh said. “That gave us new life.”
Williams, a transfer from Baton Rouge Community College, finished with eight points and four rebounds and, Pugh said, “Defensively, she was great.”
“I’ve been waiting for myself to have a good game,” Williams said. “I think I finally had one.”
Kendra Coleman fed Jefferson for a tie-breaking layup with 1:46 left, and two free throws each by Coleman and Jefferson and a layup by Green finished the scoring.
“Sometimes when teams are down 17, people just roll over and die and don’t have any hope,” Jefferson said. “But we just kept playing hard.”
Green led the Jaguars with 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting. Coleman scored 12, making all eight of her free throws to partially offset 2-for-16 field-goal shooting, and Jefferson scored 11.
Norianna Haynes led the Lady Braves with 16 points, but she had just four points on 2-of-10 shooting in the second half, and Jazmin Strane scored 14 points.
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.