DENVER — The Southern University men’s basketball team knows how to play in close games. The next step is learning how to win them.
Tuesday wasn’t the day to pass the test.
The Jaguars rallied from 10 down in the second half but couldn’t close it out in regulation or overtime, falling to Denver 75-74.
Yondarius Johnson had 16 points, and Calvin Godfrey and Damien Goodwin had 13 points each for Southern, which nearly pulled out the road win.
“I wouldn’t say it wears on us, but it is frustrating,” Godfrey said. “We put ourselves in a position to have to come up with a last-second effort. If we play our game the whole time, we wouldn’t be in those situations in the first place.”
Southern has played a tough schedule so far, with two three-point losses and games against Florida, Marquette and Tulane.
The Jaguars suffered another close defeat after failing to execute down the stretch.
“This group can play with anyone, but it’s hard to take the positive when you keep making the same mistakes,” Southern coach Roman Banks said.
Johnson had two 3-pointers that gave Southern a 67-65 lead midway through the extra period, but Denver came back to go ahead.
Trailing by one with 58 seconds left, Godfrey missed a layup while being triple-teamed and Marcus Byrd drained a long 3-pointer with 30 seconds left to make it 71-67.
“We run a set, we get a good inside shot, and we don’t capitalize on that. Good teams have to do that,” Banks said. “This team hasn’t grown up to that point, especially on the road.
“We’ve got some talented guys, but we’ve got to learn how to play the game much smarter.”
After eight days off, the Jaguars (2-6) struggled for a long stretch at the end of the first half and start of the second, but a floating baseline jumper by Trelun Banks trimmed what was a 10-point lead to four with 8:39 left.
Byrd’s 3-pointer pushed the lead back to eight.
But Tre Lynch and Malcom Miller hit consecutive 3-pointers, and Goodwin’s turnaround jumper tied it at 54-54.
Johnson’s layup made it 56-54 with 2:54 left.
Byrd and Miller traded 3-pointers, and Byrd’s two free throws with 2:10 left tied it at 59.
Godfrey hit a layup with 1:41 left, and after Jalen Love missed a long 3-pointer, the Jaguars had a chance to ice it.
But Banks missed a shot with 49 seconds left, and Godfrey fouled Chris Udofia going for the rebound.
Udofia hit both free throws to tie it.
“We made some bonehead plays. We’re up two with a minute left, (Godfrey) fouls, stops the clock, and they make two free throws,” Banks said. “We’ve been killing ourselves like that all year long.”
Denver had a chance to win it in regulation, but Godfrey blocked Cam Griffin’s jumper and ran down the court. He got the ball on the break, but his layup was just after the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.
The Jaguars jumped out to a 12-point lead in the first half before Denver responded.
Southern held the Pioneers scoreless for 5:34 early in the first half and grabbed the lead with a 12-0 run.
Things changed drastically after Lynch’s 3-pointer gave the Jaguars a 26-14 lead. Denver chipped away at the lead, and the only basket Southern had in the final 7:23 of the first half was Lynch’s dunk with 4:39 left.
The Jaguars led by eight at that point, but things quickly changed.
Four free throws and a 3-pointer from Brett Olsen sparked a 12-0 run by the Pioneers to close out the half gave them a 32-28 lead.