When the Southern men’s basketball team was tested early in the season on the road against schools from larger conferences and wins seemed to elude the Jaguars, coach Roman Banks was focused more on growth and improvement than whatever the scoreboard read at the end of the game.
Southern is taking that same approach into Tuesday’s 8 p.m. contest as the Jaguars visit TCU riding a season-best three-game winning streak.
Banks said TCU (6-4), which is led by former LSU coach Trent Johnson and has lost two straight, poses a different problem for the Jaguars (4-5) because of its size and athleticism. But Banks is hoping the rigorous schedule has helped prepare Southern for what lies ahead.
“They’re a very much athletic ball club, and we’re going to have to see how that affects us,” Banks said. “Early on, playing against teams with length has really affected us on the offensive end. We’re going to see if we’ve recovered and got any better and learn how to play against people that are a little taller and a little bit more athletic than we are.”
Although, Southern has faced less challenging opponents overall, the Jaguars average more points, rebounds and assists and boast a better shooting percentage than TCU. So what is the key to counteracting TCU’s advantageous size and strength?
Just match it, Banks said.
“It’s nothing that we can do to offset that,” he said. “So it’s just going to be paying attention to detail and not allow ourselves to be pushed around and not allow ourselves to be outrebounded by a large margin and not allow them to bump us off the mark and have a lot of unforced turnovers. It won’t be anything trickery that we do; we’ll just see if we’ve gotten better in those areas that I feel like was hurting us earlier in the season.”
Southern was competitive in most of its early losses but has lost the rebounding battle in every defeat this season. The Jaguars average 35.5 rebounds, just slightly better than TCU’s mark of 33.0, but the Horned Frogs’ height advantage poses a concern.
“It’ll be something else we can learn about this basketball team,” Banks said. “(TCU) can push you around and be very physical and, if you’re not ready for that challenge, they’ll just run you right out the gym.”
Southern hasn’t had as many struggles recently, racking up three straight victories of 25-plus points. The Jaguars are coming off a 68-39 win Thursday at Louisiana-Monroe.
Banks is pleased with the improvement but said his team is searching for consistency as it approaches Southwestern Athletic Conference play in January.
“Going back on the road, I think that they’re trying to get a formula where they can win consistently — and that means at home and on the road,” Banks said. “It’s a short recovery time, but practice has been very energized, and guys seem to be pretty much focused.”