Southern rolls off to fast start in the SWAC

Miller, Mitchell help Jaguars move to 6-0

A row of fans in chest paint led a spirited student section that seemed to hang on every play.

On the other end of the F.G. Clark Activity Center, a woman in a white Southern sweatshirt hung placards featuring the number “3” every time a Jaguar connected from downtown.

Down below, the Southwestern Conference’s hottest outfit continued to put on a show.

Southern ran away from another outmanned league rival Monday night, this time beating Mississippi Valley State 88-54 as a loud, energetic home crowd joined in on the fun.

“We’re just trying to reach our goals, be undefeated in the SWAC and try to make the (NCAA) tournament,” star sixth-man Malcolm Miller said. “Like coach tells us, we can’t underestimate anybody.”

Since opening SWAC play with a pair of narrow wins, the Jaguars (12-6, 6-0) have blown by their past four opponents by 120 combined points.

All this after shocking Texas A&M late in the nonconference season.

The next time the home fans see Southern in action, the Jaguars will have returned from a three-game road swing and will have rival Grambling on their home floor.

“I appreciate the guys’ effort and the record,” coach Roman Banks said. “But we’re taking it one game at a time. It’s a long season.”

Miller was quiet in the first half, attempting only five shots and scoring just five points.

His second half was a different story.

Only missing one shot after intermission, Miller got to 20 points for the fifth time in six SWAC games — and kept going. He finished with 28 points on 11-of-15 shooting and went 5-of-6 from 3-point range.

With the Delta Devils (1-14, 1-4) trailing by three early in the second half, Miller connected on back-to-back 3-pointers from virtually the same sport from the right wing.

He scored his final points with 1:17 to play, connecting over a defender’s outstretched arm at the top of the key and then pointing toward the sky.

Miller also had 10 rebounds, a game high.

“I just wanted to be as aggressive as possible,” Miller said. “I saw they were trying to make a comeback on us.”

The way Southern shot from the outside, a comeback had no chance.

The Jaguars finished 10-of-17 from downtown, this after attempting just three 3-pointers — and making only one — in the first 20 minutes. The lady hanging 3s stayed busy in the second half.

“This is a team that we feel can stand strong for 40 minutes and keep the intensity for an extended period,” Banks said. “This team has some very good basketball character.”

The Jaguars held SWAC scoring leader Davon Usher to 14 points and allowed no other Delta Devil to reach double figures.

Five teammates joined Miller in double figures.

Javan Mitchell had 17 points, followed by Yondarius Johnson with 13, Brandon Moore with 11 and Derick Beltran with 10. Jameel Grace had only two points, but the senior point guard saw his first action since suffering a shoulder injury against Texas Southern in the conference opener.