Southern women seek ways to keep Coleman in offense

Southern coach Sandy Pugh didn’t think Kendra Coleman was getting enough shots during Saturday’s game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

But she had a simple solution — move her leading scorer and starting shooting guard to point guard. It paid off as Coleman scored a game-high 21 points in the Jaguars’ 77-68 victory.

Coleman has played point guard periodically throughout the season, but Pugh said Coleman could find herself at the point more often down the stretch, beginning when Southern (14-6 and 11-1 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference) plays Mississippi Valley State (8-15, 7-5) at 5 p.m. Monday in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.

“When you move Kendra to the point, you go with a bigger lineup,” Pugh said. “So you’re always better defensively because you’re more athletic, you’re bigger, and instead of playing two little ones, you play one.

“I like the lineup. I don’t want to have to put Kendra in the position of playing 40 minutes, but over the course of the year, you’ll definitely see her playing 10 or 15 minutes a game (there).”

Coleman’s additional minutes at point guard not only ensure that she touches the ball more, but they might shore up an area that has become a concern for Pugh of late.

Quitesha Scott (19.6 minutes per game) and Jasmine King (9.2) play the most minutes at the point, but Pugh hasn’t been totally satisfied with the ball distribution or perimeter defense.

“It’s definitely an area of concern because point guard play is critical to your team in terms of closing out games, distributing the basketball, and tempo and clock maintenance,” Pugh said. “You want to go with Bonnie. She does a good job of pushing the basketball, but we can’t continue to make mental errors down the stretch.”

One error early on was not getting the ball enough to Coleman, who averages 17.8 points per game.

“I’m very simple as a coach in terms of, if someone’s hot, let’s get them the basketball,” Pugh said. “I thought we had too many trips where (Coleman) didn’t touch the basketball, and that can’t happen.”

When Coleman wasn’t scoring, backup shooting guard Britney Washington generally was, scoring 20 points.

“Brit did a really good job of picking up the slack,” Pugh said.

Washington’s ability to score could allow Pugh to lessen Coleman’s total minutes even as she plays more of them at point guard.

“Britney understands her role,” Pugh said. “I talked to her the other day, and we talked about her productivity. I told her that going down the backstretch, we really need her to get 10 to 12 points a game for us because that will take a lot of pressure off Kendra. I can play Kendra fewer minutes, because this time of year it’s starting to wear on her.

“We go how she goes. If she’s stroking the jumper and we’re doing a good job of getting her some good looks and she gets it going, the energy picks up.”