February appears to be brighter for Sarai Blissett.
Southern’s starting junior forward, Blissett, is expected to remain absent for at least another week with a knee injury she suffered in practice on Jan. 7, coach Sandy Pugh said Saturday after the Jaguars' 66-58 win against Alabama State.
Blissett, the Jaguars’ best true post player who's expected to miss Monday's 5:30 p.m. tipoff versus Alabama A&M, played in 12 games before spraining her medial collateral ligament (MCL) two weeks ago. The 6-footer from Miller Grove High School in Atlanta was shooting 38.4 percent from the field and averaging 8.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game before the leg injury.
“Sarai is day-to-day,” Pugh said. “I think she’s probably another week or two out before she’s back. Probably looking at her coming back somewhere around the Grambling game time (Feb. 3). She’s got to get that leg stronger. We don’t want to rush her back and have the injury be compounded with something else. Take her time, get stronger.”
The Jaguars, who lead the Southwestern Athletic Conference at 6-1, are 4-0 without Blissett, Southern’s most effective rim protector. Blissett’s team-high 23 blocks led the SWAC before her injury.
“Without Sarai, I mean, of course it’s an adjustment,” said Briana Green, Southern’s leading scorer and rebounder with more than 16 points and seven rebounds per game. “It’s basketball. Things happen. You just have to prepare for things like this.”
Blissett, who is rehabbing the injured leg twice a day, received an MRI shortly after the injury and remains on track to return in early February.
“She’s getting antsy,” Pugh said. “She’s getting to that point where she’s ready to go. But, like I said, we’re going to err on the side of caution. … When she’s ready, they’ll let me know.”
“We’re definitely going to need her down the back stretch,” Pugh said.
For the second game in a row, Southern's expecting a mud fight.
In a punch-for-punch, two-point win Saturday against Alabama State, Southern coach Morris Scott likened the Hornets' style of play to "going through the mud."
Alabama State forced the Jaguars to "take better-quality shots," Scott said, against the Hornets' intentionally slow pace of play.
Scott expects Monday's 7:30 p.m. tipoff versus Alabama A&M to be much of the same.
"(Alabama State) kind of plays that grind-it-out basketball style," Scott said. "When you're playing those guys — Alabama A&M will be the same way — it'll be one of those games where you come in, they're going to grind and challenge you defensively. Make you run your stuff. They're not going to give up anything easy."
Alabama A&M (2-17, 2-4 SWAC) is averaging a SWAC-low 59.5 points per game — a whole 10 points fewer than Southern's 69.8 average.
Southern (7-13, 3-4) is one of two SWAC teams with six home wins this season (Jackson State is the other). The Jaguars are 6-1 inside the F.G. Clark Activity Center.