The Southern men’s basketball team made sure it wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice.
The Jaguars suffered their first Southwestern Athletic Conference loss Wednesday night when a lethargic start led to a 15-point halftime deficit and a disappointing loss at Mississippi Valley State.
So when they returned to the court Saturday night they were determined to start fast and make it count.
The result was a nearly wire-to-wire 66-52 victory against Alabama A&M in the Clark Activity Center.
“We needed to respond in a big way just to get our focus and our confidence back,” guard Trelun Banks said. “It was a team effort and a big win for us.”
Southern (10-10 and 6-1) remained in first place in the SWAC with a game against Alabama State on Monday. The Bulldogs are 6-10 and 3-3.
“I thought they responded well,” Jaguars coach Roman Banks said.
“Initially the first four or five minutes we talked about coming out and establishing ourselves and I think we did. I think that helped us win the basketball game.”
A&M’s last lead of the game came at 3-2 and Southern led by as many as 17 in the first half and never relinquished the lead despite repeated runs by the Bulldogs.
“We didn’t bend when they made their runs,” coach Banks said. “(A&M) never gives up. They’re a team of runs because they play so fast. When they started coming at us we were able to withstand that run.”
Trelun Banks led Southern with 15 points, Javan Mitchell scored 13 and Yondarius Johnson had 11.
Calvin Godfrey had eight points, more than five below his team-leading average, and Malcolm Miller had seven, three below his average.
“I think it’s a huge thing to be able to beat one of the better teams in our league with those guys not having one of their better basketball games,” coach Banks said.
Southern led 33-25 at halftime even though Godfrey had just two points and two rebounds.
He scored the Jaguars’ first two baskets of the second half, but Alabama A&M got three straight baskets on drives to stay close.
Brandon Ellis’ two free throws and three by Nicolas West cut the lead to six.
Banks made two free throws, but the Bulldogs scored seven straight points to get within one midway through the half.
Cameron Monroe’s driving basket ended the run and the Jaguars started to rebuild the lead. Banks had a three-point play and and Damien Goodwin, Mitchell and Miller had two points each as the lead reached nine.
Jeremy Crutcher, who led A&M with 16 points, scored three to cut the lead to six, but a driving basket by Johnson and Miller’s 3-pointer put it away with 1:36 left.
Southern, the worst foul-shooting team in the SWAC, made 29-of-37. That’s 78.4 percent, more than 20 points higher than the Jaguars percentage for the season.
“The main thing is those guys went to the free throw line and made some shots,” coach Banks said.
Trelun Banks led the way as Southern came out more aggressive than it did Wednesday night.
He scored the Jaguars first four points on free throws after twice being fouled while driving to the basket.
Yondarius Johnson added four points as the lead grew to 12-3 before A&M made a field goal.
“The last game we came out sluggish,” Mitchell said, “so the emphasis was to come out and play defense.”
Arthur Capers baseline jumper gave the Bulldogs their first basket after nearly six minutes, but Banks scored four straight points to push the lead to 22-7.
Three points by Mitchell gave Southern its biggest lead at 27-10 before A&M found some scoring consistency and the Jaguars went the final seven minutes of the half without a field goal.
Green Hill, who finished with 10 points, scored four as the Bulldogs got within 12.
Southern managed four free throws down the stretch, but A&M answered with a 3-pointer and two other field goals to get within 33-25 at halftime.
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