Southern’s women’s basketball team will finish the 2017 calendar year undefeated at home.
In their only home game of 2017, the Lady Jaguars routed the University of Mobile, 86-54, on Saturday at the F.G. Clark Activity Center in Baton Rouge. Southern will hit the road for the next two months, beginning a treacherous stretch of nonconference games from Tuesday’s 7 p.m. tipoff against Indiana in Bloomington, Indiana, until early January.
Southern, which will not play in Baton Rouge again until Jan. 6 versus Grambling, will traverse six states and nine cities, ranging from Madison, Wisconsin, to Daytona Beach, Florida.
“Yes, getting ready to play against Indiana,” coach Sandy Pugh said. “Anytime you’re going up that way to play, they’re going to be pretty good sized kids.”
As usually expected for early-season nonconference games, Southern’s anticipating a height disadvantage that’s sure to affect the team’s rebounding and shot selection, for better or worse.
Southern, which allowed nine offensive rebounds in the season opener, which isn’t a dramatically concerning figure, must rebound much, much better in its upcoming stretch of games, Pugh said. The Jaguars will need everyone to pitch in, too.
“We’ve got to do a better job of boxing out and rebounding,” the coach said. “Our guards have got to come rebound. I thought we stood and watched on a couple of balls bounce around. We’ve got to do a better job of being physical and boxing out and shooting the ball from the perimeter. We really did not find out rhythm at all — that’s definitely a cause for concern.”
Even with poor shooting (Southern was 1-for-19 from 3-point territory against Mobile), Saturday’s game may have stood as a breakout game for starting center Sarai Blissett — a much-needed, big-bodied presence on Southern’s roster, which features three players taller than 6-foot (two freshman).
Blissett, a 6-foot junior, posted a dominant 18 points on 9-for-14 shooting from the field in a team-high 22 minutes.
Southern hadn’t seen that from Blissett since, well, ever.
“It was good to see Sarai come forward,” Pugh said. “Her freshman year, she didn’t get to play. Last year, she played spot minutes. This year, we’re counting on her to be a dominant force in the lane, whether it’s rebounding or scoring. I’m hoping (Saturday) was her breakthrough, because you saw glimpses of her doing the things that we need her to do.”
However, Southern will be without a key reserve for the road trip.
Junior forward Rishonti Cowart, who fractured and dislocated her right ankle/foot in the fourth quarter of Saturday's 32-point win, underwent successful surgery Sunday afternoon, Pugh confirmed to The Advocate on Monday. Cowart has since been allowed to leave Lane Regional Medical Center hospital in Zachary and has returned home.
Cowart's injury spun her right foot about 180 degrees from its normal direction via two broken bones and an ankle dislocation. The injury will require a 4-6 month recovery process, forcing Cowart to miss the remainder of the 2017-18 season.
"She's in great spirits," Pugh said.
Southern women's upcoming two-month schedule, 10 games on the road
Nov. 14: 7 p.m. at Indiana (Bloomington, Ind.)
Nov. 20: 7 p.m. at Wisconsin (Madison, Wis.)
Nov. 30: 7 p.m. at Oklahoma State (Stillwater, Okla.)
Dec. 9: 6:30 p.m. at Auburn (Auburn, Ala.)
Dec. 11: 7:05 p.m. at South Alabama (Mobile, Ala.)
Dec. 13: 5:30 p.m. at Bethune-Cookman (Daytona Beach, Fla.)
Dec. 15: 7 p.m. at South Florida (Tampa, Fla.)
Dec. 18: 12 p.m. vs. Toledo (West Palm Beach, Fla.)
Jan. 1: 5:30 p.m. vs. Texas Southern (Houston, Texas)
Jan. 3: 5:30 p.m. vs. Prairie View (Houston, Texas)
Jan. 6: 3 p.m. vs. Grambling State (F.G. Clark Activity Center)