The Southern women haven’t lost since dropping their Southwestern Athletic Conference opener Jan. 2 at Texas Southern.
Since then, they have won three straight heading into their game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff (3-11, 0-3) at 5 p.m. Saturday in the H.O. Clemmons Arena.
It’s only three games, but the turnaround is reminiscent of what happened after the Jaguars lost their first SWAC game last season in a lethargic 57-56 setback at Grambling. Coach Sandy Pugh got on the players after that game, and they reassessed themselves and went on to win their next 15 games.
“Coach came out with the same mindset after that game as she did after this TSU game,” guard Cortnei Purnell said. “I know she sees the potential that we have. She said basically that we have to play hard. We gave them that game. We didn’t play hard. We didn’t play up to our potential.”
Southern followed the loss to TSU with a 65-55 victory at Prairie View and home wins against Grambling (80-68) and Jackson State (84-57). During the winning streak, the Jaguars (6-7) have shot 43 percent after shooting 32 percent before.
“I think the biggest thing is we’ve shot the basketball better,” Pugh said. “The last three games, we’ve been putting the ball in the hole, and that’s basketball. To win, you’ve got to score. ... If we can put it in the hole, then our energy picks up on the defensive end.”
Pugh said the Jaguars’ execution still “isn’t as clean and as sharp and focused” as she would like, but “the idea that we’re shooting the basketball better and we’re sharing it and we’re working as a unit is great to see.”
Purnell called the loss to Texas Southern “a wakeup call.”
“We realized we’re a really good team, but we have to play together and we have to play hard every game,” she said. “We can’t let up on anyone. The practice after that game was intense. Coach was on us tough.
“Everyone played well (against Prairie View). We were playing better defense. We got better looks on offense.”
While Southern has won three in a row, the Golden Lions have lost all three of their SWAC games.
They rank eighth in the conference in scoring defense (70.7) and last in rebounding margin (minus-9.0).
The Jaguars have swept UAPB each of the past two seasons and won last year’s meetings by an average of 26 points.