The Southern men’s basketball team should be refreshed as it begins the second half of Southwestern Athletic Conference play at Grambling on Saturday. Tip-off will be approximately 5:30 p.m. at the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center.
The first-place Jaguars (12-10 and 8-1 in the SWAC) haven’t played since a 62-54 home victory against Alcorn State last Saturday.
Coach Roman Banks gave the players three days off from practice and two days off altogether after that victory.
“It’s a chance to take a breather, evaluate your team, work on your team — and then start preparing for the opponent,” Banks said. “We’ve been playing a lot of basketball and working a lot from a mental perspective and they get a chance to relax physically and mentally and get some injuries healed up as best as we possibly can and try to make a stretch run.”
The Jaguars have a one-game lead on Alabama State with nine regular-season games left. They beat Grambling (1-17, 0-9) 73-49 on Jan. 11 at the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
Southern continues to lead the SWAC is scoring defense (62.8 points per game), field goal-percentage defense (36.7), rebounding margin (plus-2.4) and scoring margin (plus-7.2).
“It’s a pride thing,” forward Calvin Godfrey said of the Jaguars defense. “I hate when my man scores on me and the rest of the team feels the same way about their man. We know we’ve got to get down and defend like we’re supposed to.
“We continue to put pressure on teams and play defense the whole game. If our offense isn’t working for part of the game at least we can continue to play defense.”
Banks said Southern is focused on becoming “a more efficient ballclub.”
He said one way the Jaguars can do that is to take better advantage of the size it has with twin 6-foot-9 posts in Godfrey and Javan Mitchell and 6-8 Damien Goodwin coming off the bench.
“We have size, but I don’t know that it’s been to our advantage the whole first half (of the SWAC season),” Banks said. “We want to be able to be a more physical, dominant team if we can and I think for the most part now the team has evolved into its niche with who we have healthy.
“I thought we were still figuring things out, but I think now we need to stop figuring and just play the game with what we have.”
Banks said he’d like to see Mitchell, who’s averaging 4.6 points per game, become more assertive offensively and average eight to 10 points.
“I think he can be more of an offensive focus,” Banks said. “We need he and Calvin to be 1A and 1B. If we can do that it will help us tremendously.”
In the first meeting with the Tigers, Southern jumped to a 13-2 lead, built it to 33-11 and never let Grambling get the deficit below double digits. The Tigers have lost 27 consecutive SWAC games and 54 of their last 56 overall.
Grambling is last in the SWAC in scoring margin (minus-17.5), field-goal shooting (39.3), field goal-percentage defense (52.6) and rebound margin (minus-7.5).