Southern men eye SWAC bounceback

The Southern men’s basketball team will try to do something it hasn’t had to do in nearly a month: bounce back from a loss.

The Jaguars (9-10) are coming off their first Southwestern Athletic Conference loss after five straight victories. They had a six-game overall winning streak end with a 72-64 setback Wednesday at Mississippi Valley State.

Southern’s previous loss came Dec. 22 at Baylor 81-56, and the Jaguars bounced back eight days later to thrash Champion Baptist College 116-12.

The Jaguars will try to respond against Alabama A&M (6-9, 3-2). Tip-off is 5:30 p.m. in the F.G. Clark Activity Center, and the game will air on CST.

Southern coach Roman Banks said his team has to show more intensity than it did against the Delta Devils, who had been winless in SWAC play.

“We’ve got to have tunnel vision and not get caught up in the number of wins,” Banks said. “We’ve got to play every game like it’s your only game and your last game.”

The Jaguars fell behind by 15 at halftime Wednesday as leading scorer Calvin Godfrey managed just three shots in the first half.

“Hopefully that was a lesson learned for Calvin,” Banks said. “People are going to come after him, and he’s going to have to be more professional at this, especially being a team leader. He’s going to have to handle himself and game situations a lot better. He was just floating early.”

Godfrey was far more assertive in the second half, getting a basket less than a minute in and making five more in the next eight minutes. But his final field goal came with 11 minutes left and, even though the Jaguars eventually tied the score, they wilted down the stretch.

“He’s going to have to ignite himself or the team,” Banks said. “I can’t always do it from the sideline. Someone has to take charge to get us going.”

Godfrey finished with 21 points and Malcolm Miller had 18, but it was Miller’s defense that gave Southern a chance in the final minutes. Twice he blocked shots and controlled the ball to give the Jaguars opportunities to catch up, but they couldn’t take advantage.

“Malcolm really has improved his game, especially defensively,” Banks said. “He has really zeroed in on his senior year.”

Defense figures to play a prominent role in how Saturday’s game evolves. Southern leads the SWAC in scoring defense (64.2 points per game), and A&M is fourth (69.4). Southern is first in field goal-percentage defense (37.6), and A&M is next at 41.0.

“I know I can defend if I put my mind to it,” Miller said. “If I defend well, it can help us a whole lot to do whatever it takes comes up with a win.”

Things could get interesting if either team is trying to protect a small lead late. The Bulldogs are second-to-last in the SWAC in free-throw percentage (62.9), and the Jaguars are last (58.1).