HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Alabama A&M had whittled Southern’s 17-point lead down to 11 with a little more than six minutes remaining Monday night at Elmore Gym.
The Jaguars, who entered the game unbeaten in Southwestern Athletic Conference play, weren’t about to let their nine-game winning streak come to an end.
Southern coach Roman Banks called a play for guard Derick Beltran, and the 6-foot-4, 185-pound senior delivered.
Beltran banked in a 3-pointer, his third on the night, and that pushed the Jaguars’ lead back to 71-57.
The Bulldogs never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
When it was over, Southern emerged with an 82-68 victory before an announced crowd of 1,284 and a national ESPNU television audience.
“Coach ran a play for me, but I think A&M knew it was coming,” said Beltran, who finished with a game-high 24 points.
“I tried to tweak it a little bit, so I faded off, and the defender went under the screen, and I was able to knock it down.”
Beltran finished 7-of-13 from the field, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range and 6-of-8 from the free-throw line.
“We ran the G-play, and he came off the screen wide opens,” Banks said in describing the play for Beltran. “We have to expect that from Derick.
“He’s one of our leaders. And when times get tough, I call his number.”
Alabama A&M coach Willie Hayes said he felt his team was in position to likely pull off the upset before Beltran’s 3-pointer.
“We were right where we wanted to be,” Hayes said. “Then, he banked in a 3. That was a dagger.”
The Bulldogs pulled within 10 points on a couple of different occasions after that but couldn’t get any closer.
“They’re going to be hard to beat,” Hayes said.
Malcolm Miller backed Beltran with 19 points off the bench, while Yondarius Johnson added 10.
“This Alabama swing is always tough,” Beltran said. “It’s hard to win in this building. We toughed it out and won it.”
Southern improved to 14-6 overall and 8-0 in league play.
Alabama A&M fell to 7-11 and 3-4.
“I didn’t think we played real consistent,”Banks said. “We were up and down, but to A&M’s credit, they did a great job. They never died. … They never quit.”
Demarquelle Tabb led Alabama A&M with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Jeremy Crutcher had 14, while Brandon Ellis had 12 for the Bulldogs.
Alabama A&M stayed in it for much of the first half and trailed just 24-18 with seven minutes remaining.
But Southern used a 19-11 run to go up 43-29 on a floater by Jameel Grace with 60 seconds left in the half before settling for a 37-27 lead at intermission.
Miller led the Jaguars with 13 points in the half, including three 3-pointers.
Hayes didn’t start Tabb.
Tabb, who entered the game averaging 12.6 points and 8.9 rebounds, played eight minutes in the first half and had four points and two rebounds.