Rush’s stellar play gives big boost to SU women

There was plenty of blame to go around Jan. 6 when the Southern women’s basketball team took a 92-76 beating at Grambling.

Senior forward Lechell Rush, who had just four points and one rebound in the disappointing loss, hurried to claim hers.

“That was my bad,” coach Sandy Pugh said Rush told her after the game. “I apologize.”

Rush has made amends in Southern’s two games since then, combining for 39 points and 27 rebounds to help the Jaguars score a pair of double-digit victories.

Southern (5-11, 4-1) has not only distanced itself from the hiccup in north Louisiana, but has also climbed to a share of first place in the Southwestern Athletic Conference standings. Alabama A&M (5-10, 4-1) lost its first conference game Saturday afternoon, falling to rival Alabama State by two in overtime.

More stellar play by Rush could help the Jaguars stay on course when they face Mississippi Valley State, last year’s regular-season SWAC champion, at 5:30 P.m. Monday at the F.G. Clark Activity Center.

“I know I can do that every night as long as I’m out there working hard,” Rush said.

She showed that against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, scoring 20 points and grabbing 17 rebounds in a game Southern controlled throughout.

Not that Rush is always such a pest.

The way Pugh describes the leader of her Southern team, it’s a wonder she didn’t wipe the sweat from the UAPB players when she was done pinning a double-double on them.

“She’s one of those rare gems; I wish I had 13 just like her,” Pugh said. “She’s a 4.0 student. She volunteers for everything. If you were going to choose a kid to show to the world to represent Southern athletics, it’s her. She’s perfect, just a great all-around leader and person.”

Pugh said Rush’s cooking is as big a hit with her teammates as the senior’s inside play.

Players can’t get their mother’s cooking when they’re away at college. So they follow the smell of fried chicken, biscuits, fish, mashed potatoes and other down-home favorites resonating from the kitchen in Rush’s apartment.

“She cooks team meals,” Pugh said. “Not just meals — team meals.”

On the court, Pugh said Rush’s physical play provides the flavor of the day.

“She’s our toughness meter,” she said. “We go how she goes.”

Pugh hopes Rush can continue to play at a high level, understanding her team may very well follow her lead.

Valley (6-9, 3-1) comes to town with just one SWAC loss itself and looking to keep pace in the league race.

The Jaguars can’t afford another misstep.

“We’ve got to maintain the intensity,” Rush said. “As long as we’re playing defense and we’re going hard 100 percent of the time, we feel like we can beat anybody out there.”

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