Jaguars looks to get back in win column

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNONSouthern men's basketball coach Roman Banks objects to a call during the second half against Mississippi Valley State.
Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNONSouthern men's basketball coach Roman Banks objects to a call during the second half against Mississippi Valley State.

The Southern men’s basketball team lost its first game of the Southwestern Athletic Conference season last weekend after starting with eight straight wins.

Because their schedule included an open date Monday, the Jaguars had to live with that loss for a full week.

But coach Roman Banks said the break gave his team a chance to refocus, rejuvenate and reassess its goals.

“When you lose, you often want to get right back at it,” Banks said. “But in our case, I think the break came at a good time.”

An action-packed Saturday at the F.G. Clark Activity Center has Southern back on the hardwood for a 4 p.m. tip-off against Grambling.

Former great Avery Johnson will be on hand for a ceremony during halftime in which Southern will retire his No. 15 jersey and commemorate the renaming of its home court after him. It is also Alumni Weekend on the Southern campus.

With the Jaguars (14-7, 8-1) sitting atop the SWAC standings and the rival school in town, Southern officials are expecting the biggest crowd of the year.

Banks spoke with his players Friday about not letting the buzz around them become a distraction.

“Our job is to go out there, whether the arena’s full, half-empty, whatever it may be, and go play our best ball,” Banks said. “If we can continue to do that, we will keep people coming back and respecting the brand of basketball we play.”

Southern faces winless Grambling (0-18, 0-9) for the second time looking to complete a season sweep.

Back in early January, the Jaguars poured it on for an 82-43 victory, extending a Southern winning streak that would reach 10 straight.

Alcorn State’s 61-57 upset of the Jaguars last Saturday came as Southern missed 16 of 35 free throw attempts. Standout guard Malcolm Miller managed only 10 points after averaging 21.8 the first eight conference games.

The Jaguars still hold a one-game lead in the SWAC for first place.