Southern’s first two basketball games had a lot in common.
They were both on the road, both were against teams that played in the NCAA Tournament last season, and both were very competitive.
Unfortunately for the Jaguars, they both were also losses: a 63-56 defeat against No. 17 Marquette on Friday, and a 78-75 setback against Middle Tennessee two days later.
“We’re still trying to find our identity,” coach Roman Banks said as Southern prepared for its home opener against Tulane at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the F.G. Clark Activity Center. “We’re still trying to be a more consistent basketball team.”
The Jaguars had to fight back from early double-digit deficits in both games, falling behind Marquette 19-5 and Middle Tennessee 15-2.
“I have to mature a little as a coach and do a good job of keeping us confident,” Banks said. “We played our butts off and had a chance to win against two top teams.
“We did a pretty good job, but we’re a little down because we want to win.”
Banks said he’s still trying to figure out who’s going to be the team’s leader on the court.
Guard Malcolm Miller, who’s starting for the first time as a senior, led the team in scoring in each of the first two games, finishing with 14 points against Marquette and 20 against Middle Tennessee.
“One of Malcolm’s weaknesses has been toughness, but he got beat up pretty well and was able to hang in there,” Banks said.
“I’m starting to like what I’m seeing from him in toughness. If he keeps it up, that will speak volumes for our team.”
Banks said he likes “the demeanor” of guards Chris Hyder and Cameron Monroe, but “We’ve got to have somebody who has the consistent level of play and talent to be a leader.”
Another candidate is center Javan Mitchell, who wasn’t expected to play during the opening road trip but unexpectedly got medical clearance to play two hours before the opener.
He is being treated for an enlarged heart.
Mitchell averaged 17 minutes because his conditioning isn’t up to par after being sidelined for a couple of weeks.
“These games are a little too fast for him right now and his timing is off, but what can you expect?” Banks said. “He doesn’t have his legs under him. He was winded and sore after those two games, and we’re not getting three or four days rest between games.”
The Jaguars need to especially do a better job of avoiding fouls. They have committed 70 fouls compared to 39 for their opponents, and they have shot 49 free throws while their opponents have shot 108.
“We have to work on not fouling,” Miller said. “We hurt ourselves in both games. We’ve got to stay in attack mode and stick to our defensive principles without fouling.”
Southern’s first home game will also be the Green Wave’s first road game.
Tulane is 1-0 after a 75-74 victory against New Jersey Institute of Technology last week. Junior forward Tre Drye from Glen Oaks High School had a double-double, finishing with 14 points and 15 rebounds.
The game will be televised live by the Pelican Broadcast Network. … Tulane leads the series 6-0, including a 68-65 victory in the only meeting played in Baton Rouge on Dec. 23, 2010.