First, comes the usual for the Southern women’s basketball team: a game with South Alabama.
After that comes the unusual: a road trip to Texas while the Bayou Classic pageantry unfolds in Louisiana.
Southern (0-2) hosts South Alabama (3-0) at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the F.G. Clark Activity Center in what’s become an annual affair between the two teams of Jaguars.
On the other side of Thanksgiving, Southern, which lost 65-45 to Tulane on Friday, will spend its next six games away from the Clark Center, not returning until Dec. 17, when Southeastern Louisiana visits. Ahead this weekend is a trip to College Station, Texas, with games against Texas A&M (on Friday) and Marshall (on Sunday) in the A&M Classic.
“It’s a change of pace,” Southern coach Sandy Pugh said. “Normally, we take this time off, let the kids go to the Bayou Classic and be normal students. But this year, we’ve got 14 kids. You need more time to play.”
As Southern tries to get the feel of a new uptempo system, Pugh said she’ll tinker with her starting lineup Tuesday — “put some people in who are more committed to defense” — but overall said her team is “getting better each and every day.”
“If we do all the little things right, play with aggressiveness and passion, we’ll be fine,” Pugh said.
South Alabama, which beat Southern Miss 69-67 on Friday, is off to its best start since 2008-09 and is beginning a two-week, five-game road trip.
“We’re about to be gone for literally two weeks. Clearly winning on the road is always a challenge, particularly in college basketball, so we’ve got to find a way to meet that challenge,” South Alabama coach Rick Pietri said in a USA news release. “Coach (Sandy) Pugh has always done a good job at Southern. They are one of the top-tier teams in the (Southwestern Athletic Conference) and have competed in the postseason frequently, whether it be in the NCAA tournament or the WNIT.
“She has a very talented team this season with some length and athleticism. We always have our hands full when we go over there to play them, so we’ll just have to bring the best we have and see what happens.”
Senior guard Mary Nixon leads South Alabama with 19.3 points per game and has made 52.3 percent of her shots. Junior forward Ronneka Robertson, from Kentwood, averages 4.7 points and 7.0 rebounds.
Pugh’s teams are 2-10 against South Alabama.
“He’s got a lot of guards, a lot of seniors who go at it hard for him,” Pugh said.
Meanwhile, the learning curve will continue for Southern.
“There’s a whole lot of teaching,” Pugh said. “But at some point, have to step back. Hopefully, the green light will go on. We’re definitely doing everything we can.”