After losing its first three games to start the Southwestern Athletic Conference schedule, the Southern men's basketball team got a much-needed pick-me-up Monday when it did something it has struggled to do this season.
The Jaguars held on to a second-half lead.
The steady second half play led to a 56-50 win over Jackson State at the F.G. Clark Activity Center. For Southern (4-13, 1-3), the question is whether the game was a sign of a team that is turning the corner.
If not now, Southern coach Sean Woods said, he believes it is only a matter of time.
“When this thing comes together and all the pieces fit, we’ve got enough talent,” Woods said. “We’ve got 14 new guys, so it's all still brand new.”
Southern looks to continue the process of maturation Saturday when it travels to Arkansas-Pine Bluff (3-10, 2-1), which is tied for second in the conference standings. The Golden Lions are led by Marquell Carter, who scores 9.0 points and grabs 6.0 rebounds per game.
Tip off is 7 p.m. at H.O. Clemmons Arena.
Against Jackson State, Southern took a six-point halftime lead but appeared to be headed for trouble as it tried to close out the Tigers. JSU fought back to take a 40-36 lead midway through the half, but Southern found a resilience that has eluded for much of the season.
There were two ties down the stretch before Southern took the lead for good, outscoring JSU 20-10 in the final 10 minutes to secure the win. Defensively, Southern held JSU to 8-of-26 shooting (30.8%) in the second half and continued its dominance on the boards.
Guards Lamarcus Lee (18 points) and Micah Bradford (14 points) helped Southern solve JSU’s zone defense. Damiree Burns had a game-high 11 rebounds for the Jaguars, who out-rebounded JSU 39-18.
“(Jackson State) was going to make a run sometime,” Woods said. “We made an adjustment on their zone. They saw the game against Grambling (a 61-56 loss), and that’s what gave us problems down the stretch. This time we got the ball where it needed to be and we scored.
“We stayed with it, and we also got some stops. That’s what it's all about.”
Southern continues its road trip Monday with a visit to Mississippi Valley State (1-14, 1-2) at Itta Bena, Mississippi. Michael Green leads the Delta Devils scoring 16.9 points per outing. Tip off is 4 p.m.
Southern women look for bounceback
The Southern women (4-11, 2-2) take on Arkansas-Pine Bluff (3-10, 2-1) at 5 p.m. Saturday as they look to atone for a 72-51 loss to Jackson State on Monday. Genovea Johnson and Jaden Towner each scored 10 points, but Southern shot just 23.8% (15 of 63) for the game.
Kyeonia Harris and Jayla Atmore each score 10.5 points per game for the Golden Lions.
Southern will face Mississippi Valley (1-13, 0-3) at 2 p.m. Monday. The Devilettes are led by Ayonna Cotten (11.8 points) and Erin Smith (9.0 points), two of the conference’s top three 3-point shooters.