Southern women refocus vs. Ala. State

The Southern women’s basketball team returned home from a two-game road trip having lost two straight and fallen from first place in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

But coach Sandy Pugh said the Jaguars weren’t hanging their heads. To the contrary, she said they reported to practice this week “recharged” and “refocused.”

“We’ve had probably the best two days of practice we’ve had in quite some time,” Pugh said.

The Jaguars (11-13, 10-3) will try to carry it over to game day when they face Alabama State (8-15, 6-6) on Saturday in the F.G. Clark Activity Center. Southern, which spent much of the SWAC season’s first half in first place, begins a three-game homestand looking to respond from losses at Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Mississippi Valley State.

But the Jaguars could be without senior forward Laneisha Stephens, who has a right Achilles injury and a left knee strain. Stephens played only 11 minutes at Valley on Monday.

“She needs some rest,” Pugh said. “She’s not very stable right now.”

Stephens’ injuries could mean more opportunities for freshman guard Britney Washington. The winner of The Advocate’s Athlete of the Year award as a senior at West Feliciana, Washington had 14 points off the bench at Valley after entering the weekend with a 1.3-point scoring average.

Meanwhile, Pugh said Southern needs more production from junior guard Kendra Coleman. Coleman averages a team-high 11.2 points per game, but she scored only five against Valley on 1-of-14 shooting — especially critical given No. 2 scorer Adrian Sanders missed the first half while serving a suspension.

“We needed Kendra to be on her game,” Pugh said.

Southern, still just 11/2 games out of first place, has plenty of time to catch SWAC leader Texas Southern, which the Jaguars beat to open league play. But Pugh said it’s important to leave the standings be.

“You can’t focus on the hunt,” she said. “You’ve got to focus on getting better and growing as a team.”

Southern, a 57-44 winner at Alabama State last month, can sweep the season series with a victory.