Southern women focus on improving

The Southern women’s basketball team has rolled through its seven Southwestern Athletic Conference games.

The Jaguars (10-5, 7-0) have won their league games by an average of 11 points going into their game against Alabama State (9-8, 2-4) on Monday. Tipoff is 5:30 p.m. in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.

Only one SWAC game — a 70-68 overtime win at Texas Southern in the second league game — has gone to the wire.

“In this conference, our mindset is we want to be first,” coach Sandy Pugh said. “Anything less than first is unacceptable.”

The Jaguars opened league play with an 88-74 victory at Prairie View before the overtime win at Texas Southern.

“We went in and played two tough teams,” Pugh said. “After we went to Texas and won two, I told them you can win this whole thing, because I felt like those were of two of the best teams we would see in this conference. True to form, I think they are two of the best teams that we’ve seen.”

Texas Southern is in second place at 5-1, and Prairie View is sixth at 3-3.

Southern gets its first look at the Hornets on Monday before completing the first half of the league schedule against Alcorn State on Saturday.

“We need to continue to play hard and focus on what we need to do to get better,” Pugh said. “That’s where I am with every game. It’s about build and build and get better. We want to get better with every game.”

The Jaguars built a 29-point halftime lead against Alabama A&M and saw it shrink to 16 before they extended it again.

Guard Kendra Coleman said “it really is difficult” to maintain the same degree of focus with a 29-point lead. But she said once Southern stopped a string of turnovers early in the second half and ran its offense, it got back on track.

This game matches Southern’s league-leading offense (76.5 points per game) against Alabama State’s league-leading defense (62.1). The Jaguars are first in shooting percentage (43.8), and the Hornets are first in field-goal-percentage defense (35.8).

Alabama State’s defense and league-leading rebounding margin are due in large part to the efforts of senior center Quentori Alford, who leads the conference in rebounds per game (10.1) and blocked shots per game (2.3).

The Hornets’ average rebounding margin (plus-8.3) is much better than that of second-place Texas Southern (plus-1.6), the only other team in the conference with a plus margin. Southern is third at minus-2.7.

Alabama State, which lost at Alcorn State 53-49 on Saturday, is the only SWAC team other than Southern that has a winning record overall.