JACKSON, Miss. — This was what Southern's women's basketball team needed.
After losing Saturday at Grambling, the Jaguars' most spirited rival, to end a seven-game winning streak, Southern beat Jackson State 68-58 in a showdown between the Southwestern Athletic Conference rivals.
They earned it.
“We were more aggressive; that was the biggest difference in the game,” coach Sandy Pugh said. “We were more aggressive than we were Saturday afternoon, definitely. We took the fight to them. We didn’t sit back on our heels waiting to see what would happen.”
The victory gives Southern (10-10, 9-2) a two-game lead over Jackson State (12-8, 7-4) with seven games to play. Grambling (8-3) and Texas Southern (7-3) moved into second and third place, respectively.
Jackson State leads the nation in 3-point defense and offensive rebounds per game and leads the SWAC in scoring, rebounds, assists and steals per game. Southern has the conference’s best assist-to-turnover ratio and allows 60.7 points per game, the league’s second-lowest average.
“We did a good job pushing up and trapping and jumping them, doing some things to disrupt what they do,” Pugh said. “Keep the pressure up, make them have to run. These kids are in fantastic shape. They can go hard for that whole time. When you only have one or two primary ball handlers, we’re going to test them.”
Samantha Duncan posted 13 points and eight rebounds, a needed boost for Southern because star forward Briana Green had a quiet game with eight points.
Duncan missed a substantial amount of Saturday’s loss at Grambling after she was hit with an elbow above her left eye, an injury requiring stitches. Duncan reported blurry vision and a headache to Southern’s training staff but passed the team’s concussion protocol and returned Monday.
As the season develops and scouting reports continue to fixate on Green, Southern’s leading scorer and rebounder, the Jaguars must find Green's No. 2, Pugh says.
On Monday, it was Duncan, a Hattiesburg, Mississippi, native.
"She was really focused," Pugh said. “Coming to Mississippi is coming home for her. I thought she was focused and ready to go … That was huge for us.”