The Southern men’s basketball team leads the Southwestern Athletic Conference in 13 major statistical categories, including scoring offense, scoring defense, 3-point percentage and turnover margin.
Sixth-man Malcolm Miller is averaging 22.4 points per game in conference play.
The Jaguars have won their past three games by 86 combined points.
But when league leader Southern (11-6, 5-0) hosts Mississippi Valley State at 8 p.m. Monday at the F.G. Clark Activity Center, coach Roman Banks said he expects the Jaguars to treat the struggling Delta Devils (1-13, 1-3) like a SWAC title contender.
“We’re not taking anybody lightly,” Banks said. “It’s our next ballgame, so it’s the most important contest for us.”
One year removed from winning the SWAC regular-season and tournament championships, Valley enters town a much different outfit than the one that swept Southern in two meetings last season.
Coach Sean Woods left for Morehead State after leading Valley to the school’s fifth NCAA tournament appearance. Former assistant Chico Potts, who played for John Brady at LSU in the late 1990s before finishing his playing career at Delta State, inherited a squad with only one returnee.
A season that began with 11 straight road games continues against a Southern team that looks to be the class of the conference.
The only team in the SWAC with a scoring margin on the plus side, the Jaguars have outscored opponents by an average of 10.3 points.
They own a marquee nonconference win at Texas A&M, which moved to 2-0 in the Southeastern Conference with Saturday’s win at Rupp Arena.
No surprisingly, Jaguar Nation has taken notice.
A season-best crowd of 1,800 watched Southern pummel Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday as the Jaguars went to 5-0 in SWAC play. UAPB entered 3-0 in the conference, but fell behind 7-2 in the early going and never posed a threat.
“I hope we’re working hard enough and playing well enough that the fans appreciate the product on the floor,” Banks said.
The challenge Monday will be slowing Valley guard Davon Usher, the SWAC’s leading scorer at 17.2 points per game.
Usher had a tough time in Saturday’s loss to Alcorn State, scoring just 10 points and going 3-of-14 from the field.
Darryl Marshall took up the slack, hitting for 21 points.
“We’re not going to underestimate them,” Miller said after Saturday’s win. “We’re going to take this game, celebrate today and then come back and focus on what we have to do Monday to get another W.”
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