LORMAN, Miss. — Southern's men's basketball team saw its five-game winning streak and all momentum derailed Saturday with an 89-85 loss at Alcorn State.
A win would have kept the Jaguars' Southwestern Athletic Conference title hopes alive, but problems mounted in their first loss since Feb. 3.
Alcorn State’s 89 points were the most Southern has allowed against any SWAC opponent this season.
“It's always tough on the road in league play," coach Morris Scott said. "(Alcorn) plays real good in here. We knew they'd be good."
Southern fell to 4-14 on the road, but it had lost just one road game since Jan. 13, a one-point loss at Grambling on Feb. 3. Since then, the Jaguars rattled off three road wins, including victories this week at Alabama State and Alabama A&M to begin this road trip.
The Jaguars opted to return to their starting lineup of old, keeping junior Eddie Reese at point guard, senior Chris Thomas and sophomore Jamar Sandifer on the wings with forwards Jared Sam and Emanuel Sheperd on the interior.
Southern cut into the Braves’ 44-35 halftime lead and trailed 68-64 with 6:39 remaining. Scott put the starting lineup back in for the final minutes.
"Those are the guys we trust the most," Scott said. "They've been getting the job done."
The Braves made 29 of 35 free throws, including 16 of 20 in the second half and 5 of 6 in the final 30 seconds. Southern, however, missed nine free throws in the final 20 minutes.
“We missed 12 free throws today, man,” Sandifer said. “We’re usually a good free-throw shooting team … That played a part, definitely. But, it was just, to be honest, I really don’t know. They hit some big shots. They just were better than us tonight.”
The Jaguars kept lingering. Southern and Alcorn State traded buckets and free throws in the final seconds, but Southern eventually ran out of gas.
“The deficit was just too deep, apparently, for us to fight back,” Sandifer said.
Southern was surging. Against so many natural roadblocks — Scott is in his first season, Southern has seven first-year players — a title still remains within reach.
Grambling, which had won 11 in a row before it was defeated by Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday, remains in first place at 11-4. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (11-18, 11-5) hopped Southern (14-15, 10-6) for third in the SWAC.
“I feel like we're the best team in the conference," Sandifer said. "We just got to go out there and just prove it, show it to other teams. To be honest, we just got to get out there and execute to win games. We dropped one tonight."