HOUSTON — As the Southern men’s basketball team finishes one of its best regular seasons in school history, coach Roman Banks is a little concerned with one thing.
“Nobody in our program has ever played games that have this kind of meaning,” he said. “It’s all new to them, and we have a long way to go.”
The Jaguars have won 19 of their past 23 games, but after Thursday’s loss at Texas Southern, Banks wants to make sure that was just a bump in the road with the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament less than two weeks away.
“I don’t know how much (Thursday’s) loss is going to consume us, because this team has never been to this point before,” Banks said. “I hope it doesn’t suck all of the energy out of us going into Saturday’s game.”
SU (20-9, 14-3) visits Prairie View at 5 p.m. Saturday having already clinched the top seed in the conference tournament thanks to Texas Southern and Arkansas Pine-Bluff being ineligible. Banks wants to make sure his team doesn’t get the top seed while going in the wrong direction.
“We are going to try to get our juices flowing again,” he said. “I need to do my job to get these guys back focused and united as a team. I think we can learn from this down the stretch.”
Banks was especially disappointed in the Jaguars’ shot selection Thursday. The Jaguars shot just 34 percent in the first half, digging themselves a hole they could not get out of.
“It felt like we had guys that hardly shoot take more shots tonight than they took the entire season,” Banks said.
“There was a lot of stuff that wasn’t on the script.”
Southern will call upon veterans Jameel Grace and Derick Beltran to help right the ship.
“We are young, but at the same time, us veterans need to take over the game and pull the team together at times like this,” Grace said. “No game from here on out is going to be a cakewalk. They are all going to a challenge. We just need to stick together. We definitely don’t want to end the season with two losses.”
The Jaguars beat the Panthers 50-45 on Jan. 4 in Baton Rouge. Malcolm Miller led SU with 11 points.
SU got 16 from Beltran on Thursday, while Brandon Moore and Javon Mitchell added 13 points. The Jaguars only made 4 of 15 3-point attempts, a far cry from their conference-leading .365 percent from behind the arc.
Prairie View (8-9, 13-17) is still alive for the second seed, tied with both Jackson State and Alcorn State entering the final regular-season game.
The Panthers, who lost 81-75 to Alcorn State on Thursday, are led by Jourdan DeMuynck (15.4 points per game) and Carl Blair (10).