The second half of the Southwestern Athletic Conference basketball season begins Saturday, and the Southern women will jump right back into the championship race.
The Jaguars, who haven’t played since a 66-57 victory against Alcorn State a week ago, are 7-2 in conference play (10-8 overall) and tied for second with Alabama State, one game behind Texas Southern. Grambling (9-11, 6-3) can catch the Jaguars with a win in the Fredrick C. Hobdy Athletic Center. Tip-off is 3 p.m.
Southern took advantage of the time between games to take an extra day off and prepare for the stretch run of nine games in 29 days.
“We’re all a little sore,” forward Briana Green said, “so it’s a good opportunity to revive ourselves.”
The rest of the games are rematches, so teams already have a pretty good idea of what to expect.
“It’s a chance to go back and look at what everybody is running,” coach Sandy Pugh said. “We’ll make adjustments to how we played them the first time.”
The Jaguars beat the Lady Tigers 80-68 on Jan. 9 in the F.G. Clark Activity Center. Southern’s depth showed in that game: All 15 players saw action, 12 scored, nine played at least 10 minutes and six players scored between eight and 13 points. The Jaguars bench outscored Grambling’s 40-25 and outrebounded it 23-7.
Though Southern’s depth has been a major asset, Pugh said she’s looking for more consistency from the team as a whole during the second half of the season.
She said the point guards have been “shaky at best,” adding that “we also need to be more consistent boxing out and playing defense.”
In the first meeting, the Jaguars turned the ball over 23 times, and problems with perimeter defense allowed the Lady Tigers to get inside and get fouled consistently.
Grambling made 26 of 39 foul shots as Southern committed 33 fouls. Grambling committed 12 fouls, and Southern made 6-of-13 free throws.
The Jaguars defense did a solid job on the Lady Tigers’ leading scorer, Jazmine Boyd, who’s fifth in SWAC play with an average of 16.3 points per game, holding her scoreless. Teammate Shakyla Hill (15.8) is sixth in the league in scoring, and she leads in assists (4.0).
These are the top scoring teams in SWAC play. Southern is averaging 72.6 points, and Grambling is averaging 72.0. They’re also first and second in turnover margin as Southern averages plus-6.44 and Grambling plus-5.67.
They rank first and third in field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage. Southern is shooting 45.4 percent from the floor and 31.5 on 3-pointers. Grambling is shooting 43.7 and 28.6.
Southern has been the better defensive team, allowing the second-fewest points (54.6) while Grambling is allowing the seventh-most (66.9).