Southern women upset by Alabama A&M

Balanced Alabama A&M upsets Jaguars

Continuing what has been a roller coaster of a Southwestern Athletic Conference season, the Southern women’s basketball team reached its lowest of lows Monday night.

Alabama A&M not only became the first conference opponent to beat the Jaguars on their home floor, but the Bulldogs left no doubt.

Southern never cut its deficit to single digits in the second half, falling 64-47 in a game that A&M led for nearly 39 minutes.

“Too many jump shots. We got killed on the boards. Poor defensive effort in the post,” Southern coach Sandy Pugh said. “But give (A&M) and their coaches all the credit. They did a good job of doing what they do. We didn’t do what we’re supposed to do.”

Pugh hopes Southern (12-14, 11-4) can regroup in time for next month’s SWAC tournament and take a turn for the better in this emotional whirlwind of a season.

After beating top-tier conference rivals Texas Southern and Prairie View to open league play, Southern was blasted by lowly Grambling on the road. Then the Jaguars won eight straight.

Then came a puzzling loss at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, another team at the bottom of the conference standings. Then a narrow loss at Mississippi Valley for a two-game losing streak.

The Jaguars looked like they had regrouped when they improved to 7-0 in conference home games with Saturday’s 55-44 win over Alabama State.

Into town came an A&M team that had lost five of six before knocking off last-place Alcorn State on Saturday. It’s the same A&M team Southern beat by 13 in Alabama earlier this year.

“I know we have a good team,” A&M coach Altherias Warmley said. “We just went through a little swoon.”

Southern took a 2-0 lead on Lechell Rush’s jumper 36 seconds in, but the Bulldogs (9-15, 8-6) scored the next five points and never looked back. A&M led 36-22 at the end of the first half, then went ahead 38-22 early in the second. The lead reached 18 points with 13:57 left.

After torching Southern for 32 points and 10 rebounds in the first meeting, A&M guard Jasmine Sanders had a game-high 16 points Monday to go with four rebounds. But she got much more help from her teammates this time.

Post player NaDra Robertson had 15 points. Shundray Davis had nine points and 10 rebounds. Alyssa Strickland provided the outside threat, making three 3-pointers to finish with 15 points.

“Two halves of basketball,” Warmley said. “I thought my team played a great game tonight.”

Pugh brought Laneisha Sanders off the bench, but the senior post player was clearly hobbled after missing Saturday’s game with a lingering knee injury. She had four points and three rebounds in 17 minutes.

“I wasn’t sure how effective she would be because she hadn’t practiced in a week,” Pugh said. “But we had to try something.”

Rush led Southern with 13 points. Leading scorer Kendra Coleman continued to struggle with her shot, finishing 3-of-13 for eight points. No. 2 scorer Adrian Sanders had 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting.

Southern got off 11 more shots than A&M but connected on only 32.7 percent of them. A&M shot 45.5 percent.

“We’ve got to play smarter basketball,” Pugh said. “On top of that, we’ve got to shoot the ball better.”

For the second straight year, Southern finds itself headed in the wrong direction at the wrong time.

The Jaguars sat atop the SWAC standings through 13 games last year but lost four of the final six and bowed out of the conference tournament in their first game.