It’s been a tough stretch early on for the Southern men’s basketball team.
The Jaguars, full of new faces, spent the first month of the season on the road, falling just short against several big-name schools for a 1-5 start. After a weeklong break at the end of November, Southern regrouped for its home-opener Dec. 1 and beat Champion Baptist College 90-36.
For the first time this season, the Jaguars will get back-to-back home games when they try to keep the ball rolling against William Carey University at 7 p.m. Monday in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
WCU (9-1) is ranked No. 15 in the NAIA. Its lone loss came to Southern University at New Orleans at the end of November, and the Crusaders pushed Mississippi State to the limit in an exhibition earlier this year, eventually falling 80-74.
“They’re a very good team,” Southern coach Roman Banks said. “They played Mississippi State to a very good basketball game. I look at those guys, and they’re a lot of guys from junior college that weren’t able to qualify to go to Division I. If they did, several of them would have had the chance to.”
WCU is riding a four-game win streak, all of which have come on the road.
Southern (2-5) hasn’t played since its first home win of the season, a nine-day break. The two games are sprinkled into an overall 15-day span, giving ample time for Banks to focus on improvements going forward.
And even with a 54-point win under his belt, Banks found plenty of areas he said need some work.
“We weren’t necessarily playing the opponent; we were trying to get better,” Banks said. “We had been on the road for a long period of time, and we wanted to come home and wanted to see if we could execute and work on our rules and how we play the game a little bit better. Defensively, I think we’ve still got a little work to do.”
Southern outsized CBC and breezed to a win from the start. The Jaguars have kept the focus on themselves during the time off. Banks said the Jaguars shifted their their focus to WCU on Saturday, but concentrated on team adjustments during the time off, which was cut short by exams week.
“The little time that we’ve had to practice, we come in and go over what we do,” Banks said. “I think right now, we need to understand what we do well and need to understand what we need to get better at. That’s what this time was for. I wish we didn’t have such a large gap. … But I’m excited about getting back on the court and excited to see what we have learned since we’ve been on the break.”
Southern will have a size advantage against WCU, whose tallest player is a 6-foot-8 center. SU lists four players at that height or taller, all of whom saw success against CBC.
“It’s going to be a pretty good team for us,” Banks said of WCU. “I don’t know how excited I am, but I’m anxious to see how we’re going to respond, because it’s going to be a pretty good team out there on the floor.”
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