The Southern women’s basketball team will take the floor at the Southwestern Athletic Conference on Wednesday having not played a game in 10 days.
The way coach Sandy Pugh sees it, the time off may be just what the Jaguars needed.
She said the Jaguars, the No. 2 seed in the SWAC tournament after sharing second place with Mississippi Valley State, appear ready to put behind a roller-coaster regular season and make a run at an NCAA tournament berth.
“This right now is in a very, very good place mentally,” Pugh said. “They’re playing together.
“They’ve been listening. They definitely know they didn’t always play their best.”
Southern will need to win three games at the Curtis Curwell Center in Garland, Texas, to win the SWAC for the first time in three years.
The journey starts with a matchup against No. 7 seed Arkansas-Pine Bluff at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
UAPB knocked off No. 10 seed Alcorn State 50-46 Tuesday in the first game of the tournament.
Southern faced the possibility of opening tournament play without their leading scorer.
Junior guard Adrian Sanders, who averaged 11.1 points per game in the regular season, missed Southern’s last two games after suffering a concussion in the first half of Southern’s home finale Feb. 23 against Alcorn.
Pugh said whether Sanders would play Wednesday could be a game-time decision.
Southern looks to avoid a similar ending to last year, when the the Jaguars lost to Alcorn State in its first SWAC tournament game after losing three of their final five regular-season games.
Southern lost five of its final seven this year, falling from first place in the SWAC after 11 conference games to a tie for second.
The Jaguars beat UAPB by 23 points when the teams met at the F.G. Clark Activity Center early in conference play, but were beaten 59-50 in the rematch at UAPB last month.
All-SWAC forward Chigozianyi Okwumabua, averaging 11.7 points to go with 5.1 rebounds, leads UAPB. Freshman point guard Cassidy Wright is out for the season with a knee injury.
In the second of the head-to-head meetings with Southern, junior guard Christina Lasane had 18 points to help UAPB hand the Jaguars their first loss in nine games.
That led to the late-season slide.
But Pugh said she believes the tournament will bring out the best in her Jaguars, who haven’t playing since losing at Prairie View in their March 2 finale.
“They’ve come a long way,” Pugh said. “I think they’re eager to win a championship.”
The winner of the Southern-UAPB game advances to play the winner of Thursday morning’s Mississippi Valley-Alabama A&M game in the semifinals.