Pugh seeking more from surging Southern women

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Southern women's coach Sandy Pugh talks to her team during a timeout against Mississippi Valley State during the first half Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Southern women's coach Sandy Pugh talks to her team during a timeout against Mississippi Valley State during the first half Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.

The Southern women’s basketball team has won five straight games, all by double figures.

The Jaguars have won three of their four Southwestern Athletic Conference road games.

They have beaten preseason SWAC favorite Prairie View. They have beaten Alabama A&M, which started league play 4-0.

But as her team enters Saturday’s matchup at Alcorn State to finish the first half of the SWAC season, coach Sandy Pugh sounded like she expects more from her first-place Jaguars than she’s getting.

“I think the challenge I face with this team is getting them to understand, when you walk out on the floor, you should be at your ‘A’ level at this time of year, and that ‘A’ level should not be dictated by your opponent,” Pugh said. “Getting them to turn that corner is the next phase for us. I think we’re beyond good enough.”

Southern (8-11, 7-1) enters the game against last-place Alcorn (1-16, 1-7) with a half-game lead over Texas Southern for first in the conference. But Pugh’s concerns are legitimate for a couple of reasons.

One is that Southern won only once during nonconference play. The other is that the Jaguars were beaten badly by Grambling, which has no other SWAC victories on its résumé.

Then there’s the little matter of what happened last year. The Jaguars ended the first half of SWAC play with an impressive 7-2 mark, then lost three of four down the stretch to finish second in the league. Southern then fell to Alcorn in the quarterfinals of the SWAC tournament.

“We’re still graduating from the negativity that surrounded us early in the year,” Pugh said. “I think there’s a part of us still holding onto that.”

Coming off double-digit victories at Alabama State and Alabama A&M, Southern needs only a win Saturday to complete the annual three-game road swing unbeaten. It would be just the third time the team has managed that in Pugh’s 13 seasons.

Alcorn senior Carolinsia Crumbly is the SWAC’s third-leading scorer at 12.5 points per game. Junior Tierro Frost averages 11.5, but the Braves average just 48.5 points to rank last in the league.

They face a Southern defense that has picked up steam since the Grambling loss and pointed the way to five straight wins.

“The biggest challenge for us right now is us,” Pugh said. “We have the knowledge, but we don’t always use it in terms of what we need to be doing or should be doing, and the level of intensity we need to do it at cannot be dedicated by someone else.”