Jags hope to continue home success

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Southern guard Malcolm Miller gets around Blue Mountain College forward DeVante Pulliam earlier this season in the F.G. Clark Activity Center. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Southern guard Malcolm Miller gets around Blue Mountain College forward DeVante Pulliam earlier this season in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.

The Southern men’s basketball team won all nine of its Southwestern Athletic Conference home games last season.

The Jaguars have won their last 11 SWAC games in the Clark Activity Center and are 16-2 in such games in coach Roman Banks’ three seasons.

Southern (6-9 and 2-0) faces the team least likely to buck those trends when it hosts Grambling at approximately 7:10 p.m. Saturday. The men’s game follows the Grambling-Southern women’s game, which starts at 5 p.m.

The Tigers (1-10 and 0-2) have lost their last 20 SWAC games, including a 70-58 setback against Alabama A&M on Monday. Grambling has lost 47 of its last 49 games overall and five in a row since an 83-75 victory against Central Baptist College on Dec. 16 ended a 32-game losing streak, which had been the longest in the country.

Still, the Jaguars said, they aren’t taking anything for granted.

“We pride ourselves on preparing ourselves before each game,” forward Calvin Godfrey said. “We know as long as we prepare ourselves like we do we’re going to give ourselves the best chance to win at the end of the night.”

Southern began SWAC play with wins at Prairie View A&M and Texas Southern last week.

Godfrey said that after going 4-9 against a challenging pre-conference schedule the Jaguars “had a sense of what our identity was.”

But, he said, the team has gotten a better handle on each player’s strengths and weakness and how to play to those strengths and compensate for the weaknesses.

“It took our non-conference schedule for that to happen,” Godfrey said, “but coming into conference I think we finally got it all figured out.”

Southern seems to have its defense pretty well figured out. It leads the SWAC in scoring defense (67.1 points per game), field goal percentage defense (38.5) and blocked shots (4.4 per game).

“We’re letting each other know that we have each other’s back on every possession,” Godfrey said. “We know our personnel. Defensively we know how much we have to pick it up in order for our team to be successful.”

The Jaguars are third in the SWAC in scoring (72.5), which has helped it lead the league in scoring margin (plus-5.3).

The Tigers are last in scoring margin (minus-23.0), ninth in scoring defense (86.7) and seventh in scoring (63.7).

Godfrey leads Southern in scoring (12.7) and rebounding (8.3, second-best in the conference). He leads the SWAC in field-goal percentage (58.0).

“Calvin is playing really well now, but he still has a ways to go,” Banks said. “The more he learns about this system the more dangerous he can be.”

Banks said Malcolm Miller, the SWAC Preseason Player of the Year, showed better judgment in his shot selection during the Texas trip.

Miller is shooting 36.0 percent from the floor and 27.3 percent on 3-pointers for the season but made 54.5 percent and 38.5 percent, respectively, on the road trip.

“I think he was looking for the (3-point) line all the time,” Banks said. “We just want him to get to the point where he shoots the ball where he’s at.

“Last year he was scoring a lot of points and people think he was making a lot of 3s, which he did, but he made a lot of twos as well. We wanted to get him back to just taking the shot that shows itself.”

Miller listened as 59 percent of his shots were 3-pointers, compared to 66 percent for the season.

Banks said the players have put in extra time on their shooting, which helped with their free-throw percentage on the road trip. Southern is last in the SWAC in free-throw percentage (58.9), but shot 62.1 percent (18-of-29) in their first two league games.

Southern moved the tip-off of the games back two hours, partly to have less of a conflict with the New Orleans Saints’ 3:35 p.m. playoff game. Plus, the Jaguars are trying to find a time that lends itself to bigger crowds in hopes of building on the home-court success.

“Whenever you try to move your whole program to another level you try to make home-court advantage just that with the way you play and with the intimidation the fans bring,” Banks said. “It’s very important to play a good brand of basketball in your home facility and it’s very important that the fans keep the pressure on the other team.”