The Southern basketball team is searching for answers that should have been found by now.
The Jaguars (10-6 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, 18-11 overall) have just two games left in the regular season as they host Texas Southern (15-1, 16-12), which already has clinched the Southwestern Athletic Conference regular-season title.
Tip-off is scheduled for shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday in the F.G. Clark Activity Center and the game will be broadcast on CST and WXOK-AM, 1460.
At midseason, Southern was the Tigers’ closest pursuer, but the Jaguars have lost their last three games to slip into fourth place.
They’re in search of more consistent rebounding, inside scoring and a spark off the bench.
They entered the season as a relatively small team with a relatively short bench, but still managed nonconference wins against Mississippi State, Tulane and Wyoming, as well as an 8-2 start in SWAC play.
But things have changed.
“There are just a lot of question marks at the end of this year that you’re not accustomed to having,” coach Roman Banks said.
This is the first time the Jaguars have lost three consecutive SWAC games in Banks’ five seasons. The number could reach four against a Tigers team that has won six straight and started SWAC play with an 88-66 win against Southern in the conference opener nine weeks ago.
“We’ve got to get back to being more aggressive on defense and more consistent on offense,” said guard Shawn Prudhomme, who scored 13 points off the bench in a 70-56 loss at Alcorn State last Saturday.
During the losing streak the Jaguars bench has been outscored by its counterparts 88-47 and outrebounded 38-32. The team as a whole gave up 19 offensive rebounds to Alcorn and was outscored 15-1 on second-chance points.
“We’ve been giving up a lot rebounds and second-chance points these last few games,” guard Adrian Rodgers said. “That’s really the main thing. I’ve got to take upon myself to get better at that, get down there and help the bigs rebound. It takes all five of us.”
All three losses in the streak have come against teams that Southern beat in the first meeting.
“Early in the season,” Banks said, “playing people one time if you’ve got a good game plan you can kind of get by sometimes and hide some things, but when you get in conference play they get a chance to study you and watch you and we just don’t have a good, sound attack right now.”
Southern has lost the last five meetings with TSU, but Banks said he thinks the Jaguars, who close the regular season at home against Prairie View on Saturday, can turn things around in time for the SWAC tournament next week.
“We have to look at just playing for seeding and try to get in a good groove going into the conference tournament,” he said. “I do think that if this team keeps working that we’ll have our chances because it’s still the same team that won some games earlier.”
— Follow Les East on Twitter, @EastAdvocate.