Jaguars aim to keep winning streak alive

The Southern men’s basketball team came from 11 points down to beat Texas Southern in its first league game, then knocked off preseason Southwestern Athletic Conference favorite Prarie View in the second.

But what the Jaguars did Sunday night may have been the most impressive feat yet.

Playing on a campus where Southern teams recently lost 11 straight games, the Jaguars fell behind 5-4 in the opening minutes, then absolutely demolished Grambling in an 82-43 victory and was out of control by halftime.

Now it’s on to Jackson State and yet another rivalry game.

“I actually think that game has almost grown to be more important or more hyped than (the Grambling) game,” Southern coach Roman Banks said. “We’re going to have to be ready.”

Jackson State (1-11, 0-3) nearly picked up its first SWAC victory Sunday night, but was unable to protect an 11-point second-half lead against rival Alcorn and suffered a 51-48 setback.

That continued a frustrating start by the Tigers in which their three SWAC losses have been decided by eight combined points. Alabama A&M beat JSU 88-87 in double overtime after Alabama State held on for a 70-66 win on opening night.

Banks expects Jackson State’s front line to present Southern (9-6, 3-0) far more trouble than winless Grambling could.

“They’re a much deeper, bigger, stronger basketball team,” Banks said. “It won’t be the same game.”

Kelsey Howard ranks second in the SWAC with an average of 16.7 points per game.

Southern sixth-man Malcolm Miller has been one of the league’s top performances through three conference games, scoring 26 points twice and leading the Jaguars in scoring all three times. Derick Beltran, with 20 points, had his best showing of the conference season Sunday night.

With senior point guard Jameel Grace sidelined by a sprained shoulder, Southern has turned the offense over to freshman Christopher Hyder, who has helped the Jaguars extend their winning streak to five games.

Tuesday night will mark Hyder’s third career start.

“As a freshman, he’s leading this team,” Beltran said.

Southern has sole possession of first place in the SWAC ahead of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, which is also unbeaten but has played one fewer game.

Nonetheless, Banks said he doesn’t see Southern as the team to beat. Not yet.

“I don’t know if we’re there yet,” he said. “If we work hard and continue to get better.”