Southern didn’t find many wins on its recent road trip to brighten its Christmas season, but with conference play coming up it has shown flashes of a team that could be dangerous in league play.
First up for Southern (3-10) is catching a breather after playing nine consecutive games on the road and 11 of its last 12. The Jaguars have a two-week break before returning to play Jan 4 with their Southwestern Athletic Conference opener at Texas Southern.
The break will surely help Southern recharge its batteries and create a chance to better last season’s record of 6-12 in conference play. On the heels of its first losing record in SWAC play since 2011, Southern went on to post a 7-25 overall mark.
This year, incoming freshmen and transfers have given the Jaguars a more athletic lineup, and it showed on the road trips.
In Friday’s 77-68 loss at UC-Santa Barbara, Southern led 34-26 at halftime. The game was tied 55-55 with less than five minutes to play before the Gauchos went ahead for good. Still, it was a night when Ashante Shivers (22 points) and Damiree Burns (10 points, seven rebounds) helped carry the load.
Southern also had a second-half lead on Wednesday before falling 78-61 at California Baptist. Shivers, Burns and Brendon Brook each scored 10 points as the Jaguars turned a 38-33 halftime deficit into a 52-51 lead with 11 minutes left. CBU came back with a 10-0 run as Southern missed its next five shots from the field.
The highlight of the Jaguars road ventures was an 83-77 win over Indiana-Purdue at the Cayman Islands Classic on Nov. 26. Lamarcus Lee and Montese Blake scored 17 points apiece, and Burns picked up 13 rebounds.
The Jaguars nearly pulled off a rare upset of a Big Ten team on Nov. 22, when they took Nebraska to overtime before losing 93-86. Southern had its chances in the closing seconds of regulation after Nebraska hit a free throw to tie the game 80-80.
Micah Bradford, who made six 3-pointers and led Southern with 31 points, missed a jumper with less than 10 seconds left. Southern maintained possession but Montese Blake’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was off the mark, and Nebraska opened overtime with a 12-2 run.
Darius Williams had 13 rebounds against the Cornhuskers, and followed that up with a 12-rebound effort against Omaha.
Senior center Amel Juljohovic, a transfer from Cal State Fullerton has also had his moments. He led the Jaguars with 15 points in an 82-65 loss at Tulane on Dec. 1, and then scored 18 in a 72-57 loss at Akron a week later.
Southern plays its first two SWAC games on the road, and will play its next home game Jan. 11 when it hosts Grambling.