The Southern women’s basketball team won its Southwestern Athletic Conference opener despite its senior leaders having sub-par performances.
Kendra Coleman scored nine points down the stretch to help seal a 67-51 victory against Prairie View on Saturday, but she shot just 3-of-15, including 1-of-8 on 3-pointers. Jasmine Jefferson made the Jaguars first two baskets but committed two early fouls and played just five minutes in the first half and 22 overall.
But it worked out as other players such as Britney Washington and Cortnei Purnell stepped to the forefront, showing the team’s depth. The Jaguars (3-8, 1-0) will strive for a more complete effort when they host Texas Southern (4-8, 1-0) at 5 p.m. Monday in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
“We’re confident in our bench play,” said Washington, who came off the bench to score a game-high 16 points, making six of nine field goals, including 4-of-6 on 3-pointers against Prairie View. “When (Coleman and Jefferson) are not doing what they’re capable of, I think coach (Sandy Pugh) is very confident in what our bench can do.
“We have reinforcements to cover that. When they’re on their game, it’s great. When they’re not, we’re confident in our bench, and we don’t worry about it, because we’ve got people to back them up.”
Washington is Southern’s leading scorer (14.2) even though she shot just 31 percent on field goals and 24 percent on 3-pointers in pre-conference play.
“I was happy to see Britney get going; that was huge,” Pugh said. “She struggled the whole preseason, and to see her feeling good at home was great.”
Purnell contributed 12 points against Prairie View, making six of nine shots. She already has started as many games this season as she did all of last season (six) and her minutes have increased from 17.8 per game last season to 22.1 this season.
“Cortnei has got to look for her shot,” Pugh said. “We’ve got to have that scorer. It was good to see her break out and look for her shot.”
When Coleman missed the pre-conference finale against Georgia Southern, Purnell scored 20 points, making 10 of 15 shots.
“I think she’s a lot more confident in her midrange jumper, and we want her to take that shot,” Washington said. “She can make that shot. We see it all the time in practice.”
Texas Southern is won at Alcorn State 75-66 in its SWAC opener Saturday.
Last season, the Jaguars won both meetings with Texas Southern: 70-68 in overtime in Houston and 71-66 in a showdown for the SWAC regular-season title in the finale at the Clark Activity Center.
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.