The Southern men’s basketball team played 18 games before it managed to win two games in a row.
It extended that streak to three when it beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff 70-60 on Saturday, and it will look to make it four in a row when it plays Mississippi Valley State on Monday in the F.G. Clark Activity Center. Tip-off if 8 p.m. and the game will be televised by CST.
“For the first time, we have a few wins in a row. And I think any time that happens, you start feeling good about yourselves,” Jaguars coach Roman Banks said. “We want to turn feeling good about ourselves into working to get better and not just being happy with where we are.”
Southern is 7-12 and 4-1 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The Delta Devils are 2-15 and 1-3 after an 87-67 loss at Alcorn State on Saturday.
In the victory against UAPB, two of Southern’s starting guards were hampered by foul trouble. Christopher Hyder had one point in 24 minutes, and Trelun Banks didn’t score in 20 minutes.
Coach Banks said “it’s good to know” that the Jaguars can overcome that type of outing to win.
“Cameron Monroe and Mike Harrell came in and contributed as seniors,” he said. “That was big.”
The frontcourt was big as well. Banks played four frontcourt players: starters Frank Snow and Jared Sam, and reserves Keith Davis and Joell Hopkins. That group is averaging one-third of the team’s points and rebounds for the season, but against UAPB, they combined for two-thirds of the points and 58 percent of the rebounds.
“Everyone is really learning to play with each other in the frontcourt,” Snow said.
Southern took advantage of a smaller team as UAPB started a 6-foot-7 player and two 6-6 players in the frontcourt. Snow (6-10) and Sam (6-9) will have a similar opportunity against the Delta Devils, who start three guards, and frontcourt players who are 6-5 and 6-6.
“We’re starting to flow together,” Sam said of the frontcourt. “I think (coach Banks) has gotten more confident in us over the last few games.”
Valley is second in the SWAC in scoring (70.8 points per game), and Southern is first in scoring defense (56.0). The Delta Devils are allowing the highest field-goal percentage (48.7) in the conference, and the Jaguars are allowing the lowest (36.6). Valley’s defensive shortcomings have contributed to the second-worst scoring margin (minus-10.2).
Last year, Southern won its first five SWAC games, then went to Valley and lost 72-64, though it later beat the Delta Devils 83-74 in the Clark Activity Center.
“I still think that we’re a work in progress,” coach Banks said. “I still think that we need to be a little bit more consistent, because we’ve been good enough to win games even when a couple of people have been off.
“I still haven’t seen the team that’s popping on all cylinders with five to seven kids at one time. I still think that in order to win the big games, the championship-type games, that’s got to start happening. But I think we’re on our way. I think we’re a pot still boiling on the fire, and we’ll continue to keep working and we’ll have our chances.”
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.