Southern women’s basketball coach Sandy Pugh has no idea how many postseason appearances she has made in her 16-year career with the Jaguars.
She’ll know of at least one more now.
Southern is headed back to postseason play for the first time since 2011 when it faces Arkansas State in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
The Jaguars will travel to Jonesboro, Arkansas, on Thursday after earning a spot in the tournament as the highest-seeded team from the Southwestern Athletic Conference to not make the NCAA tournament.
Tournament officials will announce game times Tuesday.
“This year going into it, we feel like we have to prove something,” Pugh said. “We want to go into it and give 100 percent and represent our conference.”
Southern (19-11) secured its spot in the WNIT by reaching the final of the SWAC tournament, where it lost 55-51 to Alabama State, which will represent the SWAC in the NCAA tournament.
Pugh said there’s no lingering disappointment among the team about falling just short of the NCAA tournament, especially considering how this season far exceeded her expectations after a slow start.
What makes the postseason trip more impressive is the fact this is the first season Southern is eligible for such a distinction after spending the past two years under a postseason ban due to academic probation.
“(Going to the postseason) is who we are; this is what we expect here at Southern,” Pugh said. “To be able to finally have the opportunity to participate under our own volition in terms of no one telling us we can’t go because of this or that, but because you did something right and something good.”
Arkansas State (26-5) lost to Troy in the semifinals of the Sun Belt tournament.
The winner will play the winner of Abilene Christian at UTEP in the second round.