Fans of Southwestern Athletic Conference basketball have gotten an up-close look at red-hot Southern in recent weeks.
Monday night, so will a national television audience.
When the Jaguars visit Alabama A&M looking to stay unbeaten in SWAC play, ESPNU will be in Normal, Ala., to provide live coverage of the 8:30 p.m. tipoff.
Southern (13-6, 7-0) has won its seven league games by an average of 20 points, with five straight wins by double figures. A&M (7-10, 3-3) lost its first home game of the SWAC season Saturday against Alcorn State after going 3-0 at home to start league action.
“It’s set up that you have to go somewhere on the road and win if you’re going to help yourself,” Southern coach Roman Banks said. “It only gets tougher for us as the season goes on.”
Southern got its third SWAC road win Saturday in a 79-67 victory over Alabama State, a game the Jaguars led by double figures for the final 23 minutes.
The second part of the Alabama road swing pits Southern against a team that played the Jaguars tight in two losses last year.
Southern beat A&M in overtime at home, then pulled out a 72-65 win on the road to complete the season sweep.
Banks said A&M enjoys the style of play that can feed off a noisy home crowd.
“They’re a team that likes to press you for 94 feet,” Banks said. “They’re going to be up in you. They’re going to be running and jumping and trapping you.”
Junior Demarquelle Tabb is A&M’s leading scorer at 12.6 points per game and averages a SWAC-best 8.9 rebounds.
Banks said Southern’s inside game will again be tested by an aggressive opponent.
Javan Mitchell and Brandon Moore combined for only 12 points Saturday as Alabama State focused on forcing the ball to the perimeter.
Banks said he’d also like to see Southern’s guards “attack the rim” rather than settle for outside jump shots.
“If we stay strong with the ball, I think we’ll be fine,” Southern guard Derick Beltran said. “Coach has a game plan for everything. As long as we execute and do what he tells us to do, we’ll be fine.”
The Jaguars should benefit from Jameel Grace’s return to health.
Grace scored 10 points Saturday in 25 minutes off the bench, the senior point guard’s most significant action since suffering a sprained shoulder in the SWAC opener.
“He took a couple of falls, which we needed to see,” Banks said.
“And he needed to get hit and go through that contact so he could have more confidence as well.”
Southern hopes to continue its fastest start to SWAC play since 1990, when the Jaguars raced to a 12-0 start.
Dating to a Dec. 22 upset of Texas A&M, the Jaguars have won nine straight games overall.
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