There was little doubt that Southern could defeat Jackson State if the Jaguars were able to weather a second-half lull, the kind that have plagued them this season.
Mission accomplished. Southern took a 14-point lead into halftime and, despite going more than 12 minutes without a field goal, righted itself to post a 76-67 win over its SWAC rival.
The win keeps Southern (4-20, 3-8 SWAC) in the hunt for a top-eight finish in the SWAC, which is what's needed for a berth in the conference postseason tournament.
Richard Lee scored on a short bank shot less than a minute into the second half to give Southern a 41-25 lead. The Jaguars didn’t hit another field goal until 7:28 remained, but that was a 3-pointer by Aaron Ray that put Southern on top 57-42.
During the field goal drought, Southern was 0 for 8 from the field but maintained most of its lead by making 13 of 17 free throws. After Ray's 3, the Jaguars made their next three shots, too, and led 66-48 after a 3-pointer from Jayden Saddler with four minutes left.
Jackson State (9-15, 6-5) went on a 16-4 run over the next three minutes. Venjie Wallis' 3-pointer cut the Tigers' deficit to 70-64 before Southern did what it needed at the free-throw line. The Jaguars made 4 of 8 free throws in the final minute and got a breakaway basket from Sidney Umude to close out the game.
Saddler, Ray and Lee helped Southern finish the game 11 of 20 from 3-point range. Saddler scored 20 points while Ray and Lee each had 15.
Wallis topped Jackson State with 23 points. The Tigers' Jayveous McKinnis had 10 points and 12 rebounds.
The first half showed how well Southern can play at times. Like the first half of its 80-56 win over Mississippi Valley, when Southern shot 60 percent from the field, the Jaguars showed off a deadly shooting touch while building a 39-25 halftime lead.
Southern made 9 of 13 from 3-point range and hardly flinched when one of its leaders, Sidney Umude, picked up his third foul with six minutes left in the half. Umude left the game, but Richard Lee followed with back-to-back 3-pointers for a 29-19 lead.
Jackson State got as close as 31-23, but Aaron Ray hit two 3-pointers in the final minute of the half, including a buzzer-beater to give Southern a 39-25 halftime lead.
Southern ended the half 13 of 23 (57 percent) from the field.