The Southern women’s basketball team is about to get a history lesson.
Fifteen years ago, Southern coach Sandy Pugh, then in her second season as head coach, took the Jaguars to Greenville, North Carolina, where they pulled off one of the first big upsets of the Pugh era in a 49-41 win over East Carolina.
On Tuesday, Southern returns to play the Lady Pirates for the first time since 2005, and Pugh is using her 2001-02 team as inspiration.
“When I talk to them about that particular game, I’m going to share with them how we did it, what we did and the energy it took,” Pugh said. “Hopefully they’ll come in and bring that energy and we’ll pull that upset.”
That game holds a special place in Pugh’s heart, not only because of the win, but because of what happened a few years later when Southern tried to schedule a return trip.
“The assistant coach said, ‘There’s no way in this world I’ll play against you guys. You guys trying to get me fired? My coach would have a stroke if she saw you on the schedule,’” Pugh said with a laugh.
Southern did eventually schedule a rematch with East Carolina in 2005, but the Lady Pirates came out on top 59-55. The two teams have not met since.
Tuesday's game is set to tipoff at 6 p.m.
First year junior college transfer Samantha Duncan may be hitting the stride Pugh always knew she could.
Duncan struggled through the first month of the season after missing almost all of preseason practice with a hamstring injury. Duncan was so behind at one point, she eventually lost her starting spot.
But last week at Texas A&M, Duncan scored nine points against one of the top teams in the country, and Pugh is feeling a little more optimistic about Duncan’s future.
Pugh said she expects Duncan to have a “breakout game” at East Carolina on Wednesday.
Her strong showing against the Aggies won’t be enough to put her back in the starting lineup, though. Kadesha Barry will likely get the nod again after her strong defensive performance at Texas A&M.
With one game left before the start of Southwestern Athletic Conference play, Pugh is finally getting comfortable with the Jaguars’ level of play.
Southern is 2-5 on the season, but most of those losses have come to nationally ranked opponents, and Pugh is seeing the improvement she wants out of her team.
The only problem is she was hoping the improvements would come a few weeks ago.
“I was sharing with the staff last night, I said, ‘This is where we should’ve been the third game of the year. Where we are right now is where we should’ve been the third game of the year,’” Pugh said. “We’re coming along. Like I told the kids, ‘It’s a grind.’ But the whole key of the grind is to keep grinding. It’ll smooth out and when it does, it’ll be easy. We’ve just got to stay focused on the big picture.”