There’s no avoiding the issue for the Southern women’s basketball team: The Jaguars have to get better.

That’s the challenge Southern coach Sandy Pugh is putting forward as her team heads into the toughest part of its schedule, starting with a matchup at Illinois on Sunday.

“Going into the Illinois game, one of the things I challenged them with was to manage their emotions and still be able to execute the game plan and play together at a higher level,” Pugh said.

Pugh said her team has struggled with controlling its emotions through the early portion of the season, particularly when it dropped a three-point game to Southeastern last week. She saw some improvement in the team’s most recent outing against Ole Miss, but the Rebels ran down Southern before pulling away to a 91-68 victory.

The bulk of the responsibility for pushing the team through this difficult stretch of the season lies directly on the shoulders of the Jaguars’ point guards, Pugh said.

“The most immediate improvement needs to be, I just need my point guards to settle in,” Pugh said. “I tell them every time, ‘calm down, relax and do what you know what to do, but do it with toughness.’

“They have the tools and the mind to do it. They just need to settle in.”

Games at Illinois, Minnesota, No. 10 Texas and Florida set the stage for a long December.

Pugh said she does see the light at the end of the tunnel, however, saying she thinks the next few games could be just the thing the Jaguars need to get back on the right track.

“They’re getting better each and every game,” Pugh said. “If they continue to work at the pace they’re working at right now, by the middle way of December, I expect to have a very, very quality team.”