Southern women go to 6-0 in SWAC

GREENWOOD, Miss. — When the Southern women’s basketball team fell behind Mississippi Valley State by five points midway through the second half Wednesday night, it was all too familiar for Jaguars coach Sandy Pugh.

It was starting to look like a 61-57 road loss to the Devillettes last season.

“I looked at the scoreboard and I thought about last year because it was about the same juncture last year that they took the lead on us and we kind of backed up,” Pugh said after Southern rallied to beat the Devillettes 76-67 in the Leflore County Civic Center. “I thought the big difference was this year we had more offense.”

The Jaguars showed their variety of offensive weapons. Leading scorer Kendra Coleman scored a game-high 20 points, even though her first field goal didn’t come until just before the halftime buzzer.

Adrian Sanders scored 13 points, Yasmin Fuller and Britney Washington each scored 12 off the bench, and Jasmine Jefferson had 11 points to go with her game-high 10 rebounds.

Ashley Beals led the Devillettes with 20 points, but she had just one poiats in the final 18 minutes. Joncyee Sanders scored 17 and Jasmyne Sanders had 14.

Southern (9-5) maintained its hold on first in the Southwestern Athletic Conference at 6-0 by handing MVSU (5-11, 4-1) its first league loss. The Jaguars host Alabama A&M on Saturday.

Beals had 17 first-half points on 7-of-8 shooting and scored 19 of the Devillettes’ first 30 points.

“She was going 80 miles an hour,” Pugh said, “and we hadn’t cranked the car yet.”

Still Southern had a five-point lead early in the second half before Beals started getting some help from Joncyee Sanders and Jasmyne Sanders.

Joncyee’s three-point play pulled the Devillettes even and another three-point play by her and Jasmyne’s putback gave them a 44-39 lead.

Coleman scored on a layup to get the Jaguars within three but a visibly angry Pugh called a timeout.

“She told us to pick up our stuff and win this game,” Fuller said. “She calmed us down and she got into us. When we see our coach that into a game we get in the game.”

MVSU maintained a five-point edge before Coleman heated up. She made two of three free throws, converted a four-point play and made another 3-pointer to give Southern a 54-50 lead.

“Those were two big 3s to get us going,” Pugh said.

Olivia Kennedy made a 3-pointer for MVSU, but baskets by Adrian Sanders and Jefferson gave Southern a five-point lead with 7:22 left.

The lead continued to grow, mostly at the foul line, as the Jaguars took a 71-59 lead on their way to making 30-of-39 free throws.

Meanwhile, Beals was a non-factor as Southern held on.

“Coach adjusted,” Fuller said, “and we started switching when (Beals) came off screens.”

The Jaguars spread the scoring around at the outset as six players scored during an opening 13-8 run.

The Devillettes leaned heavily on Beals and she responded, scoring 11 points, including seven in a row as MVSU got within 18-17.

Two free throws each by Washington and Adrian Sanders kept Southern on top, 22-19.

Beals evened the score at 22 by making a free throw and a layup, but Washington’s 3-pointer broke the tie.

Beals remained relentless scoring on a putback and adding a free throw that gave the Devilettes their first lead at 28-27. But that didn’t last long as Washington answered with another 3-pointer.

With the shot clock turned off, MVSU turned the ball over and Coleman made an 18-footer for her first field goal and her first points since the opening minute. That gave the Jaguars a 32-28 halftime lead.

“That really gave me a lift,” Coleman said. “I was kind of struggling, but I kept my composure and I kept attacking and kept shooting.”

Both teams struggled with their ball handling as well as the tight officiating as Southern committed 15 turnovers and MVSU 11. But the Jaguars committed just three in the second half.

“That was one of the biggest stats of the second half,” Pugh said.