If Saturday afternoon’s SWAC basketball game between the Southern women and Grambling had been a free-throw shooting contest, the Jaguars would not have stood a chance.
Instead, defense was the key factor. After taking the lead in the second quarter, the Jaguars relied on stout defense the rest of the way to post a 70-63 win at the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
Southern shot 37.7% from the field (20 for 53) but used sticky fingers to overcome its offensive woes. The Jaguars forced 29 turnovers while committing just 12, and led the entire second half.
“We were solid defensively,” Southern coach Carlos Funchess said. “We had a little spurt in the third quarter where we lost our poise, but we fought through it. If you’re not scoring, you can’t let them score.”
The teams combined to shoot 70 free throws in the game. Grambling (6-6, 5-3) made 26 of 31 at the line while Southern (6-8, 6-2) made 25 of 39.
It was the free throws at the end that made the difference.
Southern’s Genovea Johnson made 5 of 6 in the last two minutes including one to convert a three-point play. That conversion gave Southern a 67-61 lead with 1:12 remaining.
In the final seconds, Grambling got to the foul line for two free throws, but struggled to find an open shot on its other two possessions as the clock ran down.
Johnson scored 14 points finished 6 for 9 at the foul line. Nakia Kincey scored 16 points, grabbed five rebounds and had five steals — all team highs for Southern. Also hitting double figures were Amani McWain with 14 points and Chloe Fleming with 11.
Grambling led 17-10 after one quarter before Southern heated up for the second quarter. The Jaguars made 10 of 15 shots and took the lead for good at 24-23 on Nakia Kincey’s 3-pointer with six minutes left in the half.
Alexus Holt, who led Grambling with 18 points, fed Jasmine Forte for a basket early in the third quarter to pull the Tigers within 40-36. Southern responded by holding Grambling without a shot over the following 4:36.
The Jaguars forced six turnovers and outscored Grambling 9-0 during the defensive surge. Southern went on to lead 53-46 entering the fourth quarter.
The Jaguars increased their lead to 60-49 midway through the fourth quarter. The closest Grambling got as at 64-61 following a drive by Holt with 1:34 left. Johnson converted a three-point play, and Southern led 67-61.