The final score Monday night showed the Southern women’s basketball team a 73-62 winner over Mississippi Valley State, marking the third straight double-digit win for the Jaguars.
Don’t let that fool you.
Defending regular-season Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Valley gave Southern all it wanted, swapping leads with the Jaguars throughout the first half and staying within two possessions of the lead for the first 14 minutes of the second.
Southern finally got some breathing room late, then finished strong en route to its third consecutive win.
“We had to go away from what we usually do (offensively) to get some looks,” Southern coach Sandy Pugh said. “There was too much standing around and watching. We kind of went back into that mano-a-mano mode that we don’t need to be in right now. That’s not good for us moving forward, but it got us the win tonight.”
The Jaguars (6-11, 5-1) took sole possession of first place in the SWAC with Alabama A&M, which started 4-0 before losing to Alabama State over the weekend, idle Monday night. Southern improved to 4-0 at home in conference play.
A balanced attack led Southern offensively.
Yasmin Fuller came off the bench to go 7-of-16 from the field (and 2-of-7 from 3-point range) and score a game-high 19 points. Lechell Rush fell short of her third straight double-double, but the senior forward wasn’t far off with 14 points and eight rebounds. Kendra Coleman and Jasmine Jefferson scored 13 apiece.
Valley (6-10, 3-2) rode the stellar play of reserve Jasmyne Sanders, who went 9-of-14 for 18 points and had a game-high nine rebounds. Derita Silas added 14 points, also off the bench.
The Delta Devils are under the leadership of a first-year head coach, Elvis Robinson, after winning the SWAC’s regular season last year. But they showed Monday they may be a factor nonetheless.
“There’s a lot of pride in those kids,” Pugh said. “They’re not going to quit.”
The Delta Devils gave Southern an idea of what kind of fight was in store as they jumped out to an early 6-2 lead.
Rush pulled the Jaguars even at the 14:46 mark, but Southern waited until 11:14 was left in the opening half to take its first lead. After four more lead changes, the teams entered halftime in a 35-35 tie.
Valley kept coming in the second half, even after watching Southern score the first four points.
The deficit was still just 49-47 with 8:45 left when Southern went on a 15-2 spurt to take the game’s first double-digit lead. Basket-and-ones from Jefferson and Adrian Sanders keyed the run.
“They got a little tired, and we were able to beat their press and get some distance,” Pugh said. “I’ll take it.”