Hotard: Southern has its own big weekend set

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Southern women's coach Sandy Pugh talks to her team during a timeout against Mississippi Valley State during the first half Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.
Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Southern women's coach Sandy Pugh talks to her team during a timeout against Mississippi Valley State during the first half Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.

By Scott HOTARD

Advocate sportswriter

Call it Super Saturday.

A day before Super Bowl XLVII kicks off some 85 miles down the road, the F.G. Clark Activity Center will host a pair of basketball games featuring the Southern men and women against rival Grambling.

But more than two basketball games, the happenings at Southern make this more an event.

Saturday is designated “Alumni Night” at the Mini Dome, a celebration Southern Athletic Director William Broussard equates to homecoming in football.

There’s even an alumni basketball game scheduled for Friday night featuring former Southern men’s and women’s players. Admission for fans is free.

But the main attraction this weekend will come at halftime of the men’s game Saturday when Southern honors Avery Johnson, perhaps the most recognizable alumni of Southern athletics.

Southern will celebrate the recent renaming of its home court in Johnson’s honor, then hang the former Ben Jobe point guard’s No. 13 jersey from the rafters.

All of this, and we’ve yet to mention the Southern men and women both enter the day in first place.

The Southern men, who won their first eight Southwestern Athletic Conference games by an average of 19.6 points, look to get back on track after losing at Alcorn State last weekend to snap a 10-game winning streak. The Southern women look to avenge a 92-76 loss at Grambling in early January, their only loss to date in SWAC play.

The women’s game starts the doubleheader with a 2 p.m. tip-off.

Southern averages 1,023 for home games, but Broussard figures Saturday’s lineup could help bring a crowd to The Bluff reminiscent of the Avery Johnson era.

Some fans, Broussard said, will come just to watch two first-place basketball teams.

Some will come to see a famous alumnus honored.

Some may come simply to hear the Human Jukebox pep band. Or to win a T-shirt during one of the many promotional giveaways during breaks in play.

There is, Broussard said, something for everyone.

“This could be that kind of breakthrough crowd where people are looking around saying, ‘There are 4,000 people at a Southern game,’ ” Broussard said. “Why aren’t we making plans to come back?’”

If they pay much attention to Malcolm Miller’s jump shot or Lachell Rush’s inside grit, then they may very well find themselves back on campus Monday when the Jaguars face Jackson State.

But it could be a while before Southern fans experience anything quite like Saturday.

It’s one thing to have two first-place teams in back-to-back games as the second half of the SWAC season gets under way; one thing to have the rival school in town; one thing to honor a legend.

To have all of it on one day creates a perfect storm of excitement and activity.

A day before Ray Lewis, Beyonce and the Harbaugh brothers take the stage in New Orleans, Saturday at Southern is a nice appetizer for Super Sunday’s main course.