Defense helps SU women overcome Alabama State

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — When halftime arrived Saturday at Dunn-Oliver Acadome, the Southern women’s had held Alabama State to 30.4 percent shooting but held only a four-point lead.

That’s because the Jaguars had shot just 28.1 percent themselves.

Southern kept the defensive pressure applied in the second half. Alabama State could not.

Holding the Hornets to eight points in the first 16 minutes after intermission, the Southern defense bought junior guard Kendra Coleman and the offense time to find its rhythm and extend the lead, pointing the way to a comfortable 57-44 victory.

“We knew eventually, it was going to turn around for us and the shots would start to fall,” Southern coach Sandy Pugh said.

Southern (7-11, 6-1), alone atop the Southwestern Athletic Conference standings, extended its winning streak to four games heading into Monday night’s matchup with Alabama A&M, the second stop on a three-game road swing.

Alabama A&M entered last weekend 4-0 in SWAC play before losing to Alabama State. A&M (6-10, 5-1) beat Alcorn State 64-44 Saturday.

If the Hornets (5-13, 3-3) carried any momentum from the upset of A&M into Saturday, it disappeared as Southern turned a shaky 25-21 edge into a 51-29 lead with about four minutes left.

Coleman went only 1-of-7 from the field in the first half, then 3-of-4 in the second and finished with a game-high 13 points.

But the key for the Jaguars was that their defense never stopped coming.

Alabama State shot just 26.4 percent for the game and committed 25 turnovers. The Hornets went a stretch of nearly 10 minutes in the second half without scoring.

Junior center Quentori Alford entered Saturday averaging 10.1 points and a SWAC-best 9.3 rebounds.

But she had only two points and six rebounds against a Southern defense that in the second half used its bigs to double the post.

“They really did a good job trapping their post players,” Coleman said of her teammates on the interior. “That gave the guards an opportunity to get in the passing lane and get some steals.”

The lead changed hands four times, but Alabama State never led by more than three. Southern took the lead for good on a pair of free throws by Jadea Brundidge with 1:24 to play in the first half.