Southern men showing consistency

Advocate staff photo by John Oubre Southern's Yondarius Johnson protects the ball from Alcorn defender LeAntwan Luckett.
Advocate staff photo by John Oubre Southern's Yondarius Johnson protects the ball from Alcorn defender LeAntwan Luckett.

JACKSON, Miss. — The Southern men’s basketball has won four consecutive games since suffering its only Southwestern Athletic Conference loss.

It had its easiest conference victory of the season when it rolled to a 104-54 victory at Grambling on Saturday night.

The Jaguars are showing signs of a strong finishing kick as the stretch run gets under way.

But after little more than a scrimmage against a team that has won two games in two seasons Saturday, the first-place Jaguars (13-10, 9-1) expect a stiffer challenge when they visit Jackson State (8-14, 4-6) Monday. Tip-off will be approximately 7:50 p.m.

“It’s all about being consistent this time of year,” Southern coach Roman Banks said.

Since a 72-64 setback at Mississippi Valley State on Jan. 22, the Jaguars have steadily improved. Their average margin of victory in the current win streak was 12 points before the mismatch Saturday.

Banks said he was pleased that the Jaguars stayed focused on playing well and playing hard and didn’t let up even after the game against Grambling got out of hand.

“I think we’re growing,” Banks said. “My concern is being focused and in tune with the basketball game. If we’re all focused and aware like (Saturday), then most nights we’re pretty good.”

Southern’s league-leading defense has been at a high level most nights, but against Grambling the points came easily too. The Jaguars shot 60 percent from the floor and five players scored in double figures.

One of those was senior guard Yondarious Johnson, who has settled into a new role as the starting shooting guard since replacing injured starter Christopher Hyder last month.

“My teammates are always on me to be aggressive,” Johnson said. “I try to get others going first, and I try to get going on defense first. They try to get me going as the game goes along, and the way our team is playing right now is helping.”

Southern has a one-game lead against Alabama State.

“I think everything is starting to jell,” forward Malcolm Mitchell said. “We’re playing well together, but we know nothing is going to come easy at Jackson State’s place.”

The Jaguars didn’t have much trouble against the Tigers in a 60-36 victory four weeks ago in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.

Southern held JSU to 24.5 percent shooting, forced 18 turnovers, enjoyed a 23-2 advantage on points off of turnovers and outrebounded the Tigers 50-36.

“We’re trying to establish our confidence,” Banks said. “I tell them all the time that this team has all the parts and it should be growing. It seems like we’re getting more confident — confident in our ability, but not arrogant or cocky.”