Southern men handle Alabama State

The Southern men’s basketball team extended its lead in the Southwestern Athletic Conference with a 68-55 victory against second-place Alabama State on Monday night in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.

The Jaguars shot 56 percent in the second half to pull away after leading by six at halftime.

At 11-10, Southern raised its record above the break-even mark for the first time this season and improved to 7-1 in the SWAC. The Jaguars host Alcorn State on Saturday.

The Hornets, now tied with Texas Southern for second, fell to 11-7 and 5-2.

“As much as I tried to downplay this game, I still think this team kind of felt the pressure of a big game,” Southern coach Roman Banks said. “I just thought that we didn’t have that extra energy in the first half that we usually play with, and I thought that we were being very, very careful not to make mistakes, which led us to make some bad plays.”

Malcolm Miller led Southern with 18 points. Calvin Godfrey had 17 points and 12 rebounds, and Yondarius Johnson scored 13.

“This is a big win for us,” Miller said. “For us to play as sloppy as we did and still come out with a win is really big.”

Godfrey, who has increasingly become the focal point for opposing defenses, had his first double-double in four games.

“The past few games, I’ve been getting double-teamed as soon as I touch the ball,” Godfrey said. “As long as we’ve got our team moving and we’re getting to the open areas when I get double-teamed, we should always score.”

Maurice Strong led Alabama State with 14 points, and Brandon Graham and Jamel Waters had 13 each. The Hornets shot just 30.8 percent and were 3-of-21 on 3-pointers.

The Jaguars outrebounded the Hornets 45-34.

Southern quickly built the lead to double figures at the start of the second half.

Johnson began the scoring with a 3-pointer, and Godfrey made two free throws before Graham made a tip-in. Godfrey made two baskets after offensive rebounds, and Johnson hit another 3-pointer to increase the lead to 42-30.

After Strong made a layup, Lynch made two free throws, and Johnson dunked and made a 3-pointer to push the advantage to 49-32 with 11:46 left. The lead reached 20 when Miller made a 3-pointer with 9:14 left, but the Hornets started chipping away.

Graham made a jumper from the lane, and DeMarcus Robinson made a 3-pointer. After Trelun Banks made a jumper for the Jaguars, Waters made two free throws, and Graham hit a 15-footer.

Godfrey made a layup, but Luther Page made two free throws to cut the lead to 60-47.

Miller responded with a 3-pointer, and Godfrey scored six straight points before fouling out. He went to the bench with Southern leading 68-47 with 2:23 left.

“I thought we came out at the start of the second half and played with a lot more intensity,” Banks said. “I don’t know how well we played, but we played with more intensity and got off to a good start. We got some energy going, and we were able to hold on to that for most of the second half.”

Miller got off to a fast start, scoring 10 points as the Jaguars jumped to a 12-6 lead. Graham scored a on a putback and made a 3-pointer to help the Hornets get within 18-15.

Tre Lynch’s basket on a drive completed an 8-2 run that gave Southern its biggest first-half lead at 26-17.

Waters cut into the lead with three points before Lynch made a baseline jumper. Terrance LeFlore made two free throws for the Hornets, and Miller answered with two. Strong dunked with 17 seconds left to cut the Jaguars’ lead to 30-24 at halftime.