Defense leads way for SU women

A week after hitting a speed bump at rival Grambling, the Southern women’s basketball team is making that performance look like an aberration.

The Jaguars were dominant Saturday in a 67-44 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff at the F.G. Clark Activity Center, posting their second straight double-digit win and once again letting their defense lead the way.

Southern (5-11, 4-1 in Southwestern Athletic Conference) held UAPB (5-9, 1-3) to 23.3 percent shooting and kept the Golden Lions to single digits for the game’s first 17 minutes.

It was a far cry from the 92-76 whipping Southern took last Sunday at Grambling, a game that saw three Tigers go for 20-plus points.

Southern had started SWAC action 2-0 before making the trip north.

“Seeing somebody put up 92 points on you, it’s kind of a shock to the system,” senior forward Lechell Rush said. “It humbles you.”

Although the Jaguars have clearly responded on the defensive end, Rush’s play the past two games has been every bit as responsible for Southern’s resurgence.

Rush had game highs of 20 points and 17 rebounds Saturday, this after going for 19 points and 10 rebounds — both game highs — in a 72-59 win at Jackson State on Tuesday. She played only four minutes in the loss at Grambling.

Meanwhile, sophomore guard Kendra Coleman had 15 points and six rebounds against UAPB to continue her strong start in conference play.

“Working with Kendra makes it a lot easier when you’re a post player because they know they can’t leave her open,” Rush said.

Coleman did much of her damage during a 10-0 run early in the second half, scoring seven points to help Southern turn a 24-13 halftime lead into a 36-15 edge with 15:59 to play. She had scored only four points in the first half on 2-of-8 shooting.

At halftime, coach Sandy Pugh said she told Coleman to be more assertive.

“I thought she was running from contact, from being fouled,” Pugh said. “She needed to put her shoulders down and get into her jump shot.”

Freshman guard Cassidy Wright was the only double-digit scorer for UAPB with 14 points.

UAPB entered as the SWAC leader in scoring offense, but fell well below its 60.8-point average.

The Lions had a particularly hard time in the paint, scoring just 12 points there. Eighteen of their 44 points came via the 3-pointer.

Pugh has spent much time at practice in the past week trying to get Southern’s defense in gear. She said while Saturday may have been a step in the right direction, the Jaguars are far from being the kind of defensive team she expects.

“In order for us to win a championship, our defense has got to be our backbone — not our offense,” Pugh said. “I think with a lot of these kids, it’s the offense they’re banking on. I bank on defense.”

Southern is back in action at 5:30 p.m. Monday as Mississippi Valley State, last year’s Southwestern Athletic Conference regular-season champion, comes to town.