Against Mississippi Valley State, Monday’s 66-58 women's basketball win was expected to be a breeze for first-place Southern. Instead, the Jaguars lethargically summoned just enough to beat the Southwestern Athletic Conference's last-place team.
On Mardi Gras eve, the Jaguars were sleepy at the F.G. Clark Activity Center — a building where they’ve had nothing but success this season.
Mississippi Valley State (2-23, 2-12 SWAC) is undersized and not nearly as talented as Southern. A struggle of this magnitude — Southern trailed by 31-30 at halftime and had 24 total turnovers — blindsided the Jaguars.
"It was us kind of looking past Mississippi Valley," said forward Briana Green. "Coach (Sandy Pugh), you know, tells us all the time, and she told us after the game, we can't really look past anybody. Because we're the No. 1 seed, everybody's going to aiming for us."
Still, Southern improved to 8-0 at home, and the Jaguars (12-10, 11-2 SWAC) were guaranteed to maintain a one-game lead over the winner of Monday's late game between Grambling (9-3 SWAC) and Texas Southern (8-3).
"All in all, I just think we just seemed a little lethargic," Pugh said. "You have to play each game because you're going to see everybody's A-game. You're the No. 1 team. You're sitting in the first chair. Everybody wants to defeat you."
Pugh said she elected not to start Green, Southern's leading scorer and rebounder averaging nearly 30 minutes per game, 16.1 points and 6.9 rebounds, because the senior arrived to the arena late for Monday's game.
When she came off the bench, Green almost immediately boosted Southern with seven points in eight minutes in the first half.
Green sat for 28 seconds to begin the second before returning, and she finished with a team-high 20 points in 28 minutes.
She was needed because Southern, which committed 17 turnovers in the first half, trailed by 12 late in the third quarter.
“The first half, our turnovers were just awful," Pugh said. "They just whooped us."
Mississippi Valley State led 51-43 into the fourth quarter, when the Jaguars unleashed a significant defensive surge and restricted the Delta Devils to just seven points in the final period.
Delta Devils point guard Lakendra Bassett scored 18 points but had 11 of Valley's 26 turnovers.