So far, so good for Southern and Keith Davis.
The Jaguars men’s basketball team played its first game without starting center Frank Snow, who’s expected to miss three weeks with a broken right hand, against Grambling on Saturday night.
It came away with a hard-fought 58-50 win in the F.G. Clark Activity Center, and Davis took Snow’s place in the starting lineup to lead the way on a night when he had to because the perimeter offense wasn’t up to par.
Davis scored a game-high 16 points and tied Jared Sam for the team lead with eight rebounds. He shot 63 percent (7-for-11), and his teammates shot 29 percent (15-of-52).
“That was a good starting point for Keith,” coach Roman Banks said. “We wanted to establish him early. With Frank out, we need inside scoring. We went to him early to try and get some buckets and loosen the perimeter, and he answered. Now it’s about being consistent and knowing everything to do on the court for 40 minutes.”
The next test for Davis and Southern (11-3, 8-2 SWAC) comes when they host Jackson State on Monday. The Tigers fell to 2-18 and 0-10.
“It’s safe to say we won a game tonight when we weren’t cooking on all cylinders,” Banks said. “But the guys we rely on made individual plays when we needed them.”
Mark Gray, who led Grambling with 12 points, scored the Tigers’ first five points of the second half to give them a 33-28 lead before Southern’s defense ignited a run.
The Tigers made just one field goal during the next 7½ minutes, and Davis went to work on the offensive end.
He made one of two free throws, then got a tip-in. He dunked off an assist from Trelun Banks and got a layup off an assist from Christopher Hyder.
Lonnie McElwain’s tip-in interrupted the run, but Adrian Rodgers made a 3-pointer, Banks scored on a layup, Joell Hopkins made one of two free throws and Tre Lynch made a steal and a layup. That gave the Jaguars a 43-35 lead midway through the half.
“We weren’t shooting the ball well,” Hyder said, “so we wanted to get some steals and get out in transition and get some easy baskets. We started getting into the open court where we’re more effective and more efficient.”
The lead grew to 10 moments later after Lynch made a 3-pointer and Hyder scored on a drive.
The Tigers chipped away. Gray made a 3-pointer and two free throws, and Chase Cormier scored a drive to cut the lead to 52-48 with 3:57 remaining.
Grambling twice had opportunities to get closer but missed shots both times. Banks converted a three-point play after a drive and Sam made a tip-in to push the Jaguars’ advantage to 57-48 with a minute and a half left.
A’Torri Shine had 11 points and Richard Freeman 10 for Grambling, which made its last field goal with 4½ minutes left.
“We just started playing harder,” Davis said of the second-half turnaround.
Davis scored the first basket of the game and he finished the first half with seven points, but Grambling led 28-26 as the other Jaguars made 6-of-24 shots and the Tigers bench outscored their Jaguars counterparts 15-5.
“It always feels good to get the ball in the post,” Davis said. “I just want to help as much as I can and hopefully I can get better each and every game.”
After the game, Roman Banks was presented with a basketball commemorating his 50th SWAC victory as Jaguars coach.
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.