On the day Southern dedicated its home court in former great Avery Johnson’s honor, the Southwestern Athletic Conference-leading men’s basketball team faced archrival Grambling to begin a two-game homestand.
A season-best crowd of 4,800 had the F.G. Clark Activity Center buzzing long before the opening tip.
So maybe it’s no surprise Southern had some issues with winless Grambling in the early going, needing some time to take in the environment and get adjusted.
The Jaguars eventually found their way, cruising to a 59-31 win.
“I really thought we put some pressure on ourselves to please everybody,” Southern coach Roman Banks said of the slow start. “I didn’t think we were in a relaxed mode.”
Southern (15-7, 9-1) seemed to take over the game with a 15-0 run after falling in an early 4-2 hole. Not yet. Grambling (0-19, 0-10) came roaring back, going on a 7-0 run of its own to make it 17-11 with 6:12 left in the first half.
No, it wasn’t until the final 20 minutes that Southern put the hammer down.
The Jaguars outscored Grambling 31-15 after intermission, allowing the Tigers to shoot just 17.2 percent from the field in the second half.
Malcolm Miller finished with a game-high 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting after scoring only three points in the first half.
“We settled down,” Banks said. “You could look out on the court and see we were playing looser.”
Southern not only celebrated Johnson by renaming its court after the former star, but also unveiled a banner bearing the No. 15 he wore 25 years ago.
Banks left his team on the court for the halftime festivities rather than going to the locker room for a pep talk.
“There wasn’t anything I had to say that was more important than that ceremony,” Banks said.
“That was a history lesson for those guys.”
The Jaguars played inspired basketball the rest of the way, opening a 38-21 lead by the 11:28 mark of the second half and rolling to their seventh double-digit victory during the conference season.
Southern returns to action Monday night against Jackson State.
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