Southern rebounds to beat Ala. State

Coming off back-to-back losses for the first time during Southwestern Athletic Conference play, the Southern women’s basketball team had a meeting Friday with coach Sandy Pugh to address its frame of mind.

The Jaguars assured Pugh they would respond.

“We’re moving on,” Pugh said her players told her. “We’re going to be ready to go.”

Southern made good on its word in a 55-44 victory over Alabama State on Saturday afternoon at the F.G. Clark Activity Center, jumping out to a big early lead and never allowing the Hornets any closer than eight points in the second half.

The Jaguars (12-13, 11-3) kept their position in second place behind SWAC leader Texas Southern and improved to 7-0 in conference home games.

In the process, they pushed aside the back-to-back losses at Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Mississippi Valley State, setbacks that came on the heels of an eight-game winning streak that had sent the Jaguars to the front of the SWAC race.

“We learned from it, and we’re not going to look back,” Southern senior Lechell Rush said.

Kendra Coleman and Adrian Sanders had 13 points apiece to lead Southern, which played without injured post player Laneisha Stephens, out indefinitely with a lingering knee injury. Rush had nine points and eight rebounds.

The Jaguars, who completed a season sweep of Alabama State, will go for a sweep of Alabama A&M on Monday night.

“I thought we controlled the tempo the whole game, which is what we want to do,” Pugh said. “Hopefully this next game, we’ll be able to assert ourselves a little more down the stretch.”

The Jaguars’ lead sat in double figures for much of the game.

But Alabama State (8-16, 6-7) started to make a run midway through the second half.

The Jaguars responded, building the lead back to 50-34 after the Hornets had gotten within eight.

The key sequence came when Southern freshman reserve Jadea Brundidge blocked a baseline try by Alabama State to start a fast break.

Rush received a pass from Jasmine King in transition and quickly converted, was fouled and sank the free throw for a three-point play.

Not long after the Hornets had ripped off an 11-4 run, the three-point play stretched Southern’s lead to 41-28 with 6:49 left.

Rush credited Brunidge, whose defensive stop set the stage.

“When a freshman comes in and makes a big play like that, it picks up the momentum,” Rush said.

“That was a big-time play from my freshman.”

With the Jaguars up 13 points and 3:21 to play, Coleman gave Southern its biggest lead when she drained a 3-pointer at the top of the key with the shot clock expiring.