The importance of taking care of business at home is not lost on the Southern women’s basketball team or first-year head coach Carlos Funchess.
An assistant coach at Southern for 13 years before named head coach, Funchess was part of last year’s team that won eight of nine Southwestern Athletic Conference games at home. It was an important part of a season in which the Jaguars posted a league-best 14-4 overall record.
Southern (10-9, 7-2 SWAC) will need to maintain a similar pace if it wants to earn the top seed for the SWAC tournament. At the midway point of the conference schedule, Southern is tied for first with Prairie View and former head coach Sandy Pugh, while Grambling and Alabama State are one game behind.
The second run through conference play begins Saturday when Grambling (9-12, 6-3) visits the F.G. Clark Activity Center for a 3 p.m. contest. It's the start of a run in which Southern will play five of its next seven SWAC games at home.
“(Grambling) is a rivalry game, but just as important, I know they don’t want to fall two games behind in the standings,” Funchess said. “It's very important for us to protect our home court.”
After winning 86-81 at Grambling on Jan. 12, Southern will be looking to complete a regular-season sweep of the Tigers for the first time since 2014. Each team won at home last season, but Grambling had the last laugh when it defeated top-seeded Southern 72-68 in the SWAC tournament final.
On Saturday, Southern will look to contain Grambling senior guard Shakyla Hill, who had a triple-double in the teams’ first meeting this season. Hill had 20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, but it wasn’t enough for the Tigers to pull out a win. Hill had her second career quadruple-double last Saturday against Arkansas-Pine Bluff with 21 points, 16 rebounds, 13 assists and 10 steals.
Brittany Rose led four Jaguars in double figures with 16 points, and also had eight rebounds. Southern opened the fourth quarter with a 15-6 run to take a 75-63 lead, and Rose hit key free throws down the stretch to hold off a late Grambling rally.
JAGUARS HOPE TO SNAP 3-GAME SKID: The Southern men's team (3-19, 2-7) looks to break a three-game losing streak when it hosts Grambling at 5:30 pm. Saturday.
The Jaguars are coming off a 76-64 loss at Alcorn State last Saturday when the Braves' Maurice Howard went 7 for 11 from 3-point range and scored 20 of his game-high 27 points in the second half.
Alcorn led by two at halftime and got three 3-pointers from Howard as it stretched a 56-49 lead to 67-51 with 5:23 left to play.
On Jan. 12, Grambling (11-11, 5-4) took a 40-22 halftime lead before holding on for a 69-63 win. Southern took a 57-56 lead with six minutes left and trailed 62-61 before faltering in the final three minutes.
Jayden Saddler topped Southern with 12 points. Grambling’s Anthony Gaston led the Tigers with 17.