Southern men take on SWAC favorite

Advocate staff photo by JOHN OUBRE -- Southern's Yondarius Johnson defends Texas Southern's Madarious Gibbs on Jan. 2. Johnson was reinstated Thursday and will be eligible for the rest of the season, Athletic Director William Broussard.
Advocate staff photo by JOHN OUBRE -- Southern's Yondarius Johnson defends Texas Southern's Madarious Gibbs on Jan. 2. Johnson was reinstated Thursday and will be eligible for the rest of the season, Athletic Director William Broussard.

The Southern men’s basketball team not only won its Southwestern Athletic Conference opener Wednesday night, the Jaguars put on the kind of show against Texas Southern that kept fans in the F.G. Clark Activity Center glued to their seats.

After leading 2-0 in the opening minute, Southern wasn’t ahead again in the 63-57 win until 9 minutes, 37 seconds remained. The Jaguars were rightfully giddy as they celebrated the latest step in their fast start, moving above the .500 mark by surviving a game Texas Southern led by 13 points late in the first half.

What worries coach Roman Banks, however, is how little time they have to turn the page — and who they’re playing next.

Southern (7-6, 1-0) returns to action at 7:30 p.m. Friday when Prairie View A&M (5-9, 0-1) visits in a game that matches the Jaguars against the only team picked ahead of them in the SWAC preseason poll.

“Now we’ve got to bounce back, find some energy from somewhere and regroup,” Banks said. “We’ve got the team picked to win the league coming in here.”

Banks hopes the Jaguars have something left in the tank after watching them rally behind Malcolm Miller’s 26-point, nine-rebound effort in the conference opener. Miller continued an impressive start to his junior season, scoring the final three points of the first half — cutting the deficit to four points — and the first two of the second.

Southern’s super sub lifted his scoring average to 14.2 points, which ranks sixth among SWAC scorers. He also averages 5.5 rebounds to rank eighth.

The Jaguars could be without senior point guard Jameel Grace, who injured his arm Wednesday and missed most of the second half. Freshman Christopher Hyder stepped in, going 0-for-1 from the field and 1-for-2 from the free-throw line.

Banks said after Wednesday’s game that he wasn’t sure what Grace’s status would be for Friday.

Prairie View needs a win Friday to put itself in position to make good on its preseason billing. The Panthers suffered a 68-54 loss at Alcorn State in their SWAC opener, a game the Braves led 33-19 at halftime. Prairie View’s fourth straight loss came at the hands of an opponent that entered Wednesday having lost nine in a row.

Southern has won three straight, but Banks said he will look to get his bench more involved moving forward. Seven players saw at least 20 minutes of action against Texas Southern, and only three reserves got in the game.

“We’ve got to get our bench ready,” Banks said. “I’ve got to play some more people and trust some more people to come in and play.”

Southern has been far and away the SWAC’s best defensive team, allowing 59.1 points per game as the conference leader in scoring defense. Prairie View is the SWAC scoring offense leader at 68.1 points.

Senior guards Jourdan DeMuynck and Carl Blair lead a dynamic Prairie View backcourt. DeMuynck, averaging 14.2 points and 6.2 rebounds, ranks ninth in the SWAC in scoring and sixth in rebounding. Blair averages 10.4 points and is second in the league in assists at 5.4.