Southern got a boost from the return of injured starters Trelun Banks and D’Adrian Allen.
And those two got a helping hand from Jared Sam as the Jaguars needed all hands on deck to hold off Alabama State 73-69 on Saturday night in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
Banks returned from a two-game absence with a sprained ankle to start, play 38 minutes and score 21 points. Allen returned from a six-game absence with a sprained ankle to come off the bench and get three points and two rebounds in 12 minutes.
“(The ankle) felt pretty good,” said Banks, who made 7 of 12 shots, including 4 of 8 3-pointers. “I didn’t think about it very much. Once I started getting up and down the court, the adrenaline started pumping and it really wasn’t on my mind.”
Sam, who had been the Jaguars’ primary big man in Allen’s absence, split time between power forward and center and had 15 points, making 9 of 13 free throws, with a team-high six rebounds.
“We wanted to get some touches in the post,” Banks said. “We got Jared going, and we got them in foul trouble quick.”
Southern took just three free throws in the first half, making one, but in the second half it made 15 of 26. ASU got into the penalty with 12:13 left and the double penalty with 9:59 to go. Three Hornets — starters Tony Armstrong and Glenn Hollaway and reserve Corvon Butler — fouled out.
“We were taking too many jumpers,” Sam said. “We just wanted to get the ball inside more (in the second half.)”
Southern won its fifth consecutive game to improve to 5-2 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and 13-7 overall. It hosts Alabama A&M at 6 p.m. Monday. The Hornets fell to 1-5 and 6-12.
In addition to Banks and Sam, Adrian Rodgers scored in double figures with 11 points. Jamel Waters led ASU with 22 points, Armstrong had 12 and Butler 11. Armstrong, Butler and Bobby Brown each had seven rebounds as the Hornets had a 43-35 edge on the boards.
Banks originally injured his ankle in the season opener Nov. 13 at Arkansas. Three days later, he scored a game-high 18 points in a 76-72 win at Mississippi State.
“I told the guys that, the way he has played coming off that injury, we needed get him hurt tonight to get him ready for Monday,” coach Roman Banks joked. “I didn’t plan on playing him that many minutes. I was hoping to get about a three-possession lead and get him a rest, but it never happened.”
The lead changed hands 14 times and the score was tied nine times, the last time at 58 with seven minutes remaining.
Sam made four free throws and Banks one, but a steal and a layup by Waters, who had five rebounds, four assists and two steals, gave the Hornets their last lead at 66-65 with 3:40 left.
Rashad Andrews beat the ASU defense down the court for a layup, and a 3-pointer by Banks and a free throw by Sam gave the Jaguars a 71-66 lead with 1:16 left.
Torloft Thomas made 1 of 2 free throws for the Hornets, then stole a Christopher Hyder pass and fed Terrance LeFlore for a layup that made it 71-69 with 1:01 left.
Hyder fouled LeFlore on the layup, but LeFlore missed the free throw. Mikel Tyson got an offensive rebound but missed a jumper. On the subsequent rebound, the ball was slapped all the way across mid-court and LeFlore chased it down, but Waters missed a jumper and Sam rebounded.
ASU got another chance when Hyder missed a jumper with 21 seconds left, but LeFlore missed a jumper. Sam rebounded again and passed to Hyder, who fed Rodgers for a dunk just before the final buzzer.