Southern men seeking extra motivation

Advocate file photo by John Oubre -- Southern tuard, right Trelun Banks averaged 8.9 points and led the team with 102 assists last season.
Advocate file photo by John Oubre -- Southern tuard, right Trelun Banks averaged 8.9 points and led the team with 102 assists last season.

The Southern men’s basketball team posed for a picture with its Southwestern Athletic Conference regular-season championship trophy Monday afternoon.

Then the Jaguars hopped on a bus and headed to Houston for the SWAC tournament. Coach Roman Banks had plenty of time on the ride to think of a way to avoid a repeat of what happened in a 67-64 loss to Texas Southern in the regular-season finale Saturday.

“The implication of that game is it was what I’ve been afraid of, and that’s what happens when you don’t have as much to play for as another team,” Banks said. “We were out there playing hard, but they were playing hard and they were extra motivated. I think that’s a difference. When we go to this tournament, we’ve got to find some type of way to get ourselves equally motivated.”

The Jaguars (19-12) had already clinched the SWAC title a week earlier, but the Tigers needed Saturday’s win to claim the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament. That could mean an NCAA tournament berth for TSU if it is eliminated in the SWAC tournament in the same round as third-seeded Alabama State and the SWAC title goes to one of four teams — including Southern — that is facing an NCAA postseason ban.

A similar imbalance in motivation could confront Southern in the tournament. Its opponent Wednesday will be the winner of a Tuesday first-round game between eighth-seeded Prairie View A&M, which is NCAA eligible, and ninth-seeded Mississippi Valley State, which also faces a postseason ban along with Grambling and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

“A lot of teams like the other night are going to be playing for a lot more, so that extra motivation helps a team,” Banks said. “I’ve got to find a way to keep these guys playing at a level to combat that extra effort versus just going through that effort. That’s my concern.

“Obviously if you’re playing for a chance to go to the NCAA tournament, there’s a lot more at stake than where we are right now. We’re trying to get our motivation equal to that of someone who does have a chance to play in it.”

Banks said he will preach what he has been preaching since the ban was instituted in early December and affirmed in late February.

“You play for yourself and you play for your teammates and you play for your university and your alumni and the people that you represent,” Banks said. “We want to learn from the last game and maximize our energy.

“You’ve got to be able to really bite down and want to do it for yourself regardless of whether you can go to the (NCAA) tournament or not. These guys did a good job to clinch the conference championship in advance. They are the conference champions. When it’s all said and done, I don’t know if there’s much more I could have asked of them in the regular season.”

Banks said the SWAC tournament “is a good test of character for these guys.”

Forward Malcolm Miller said the next week “will be a pride issue.”

“Student-athletes come to a university to get an education, and basketball-wise they come to play in the NCAA tournament. And when you have that taken away, you can’t help but be distraught,” Banks said. “As much as we try and put it past us, it’s always in front of us. I think this team showed itself well by the way it handled it and went out and won most nights. You have to clap your hands for those guys.”

Banks said the Jaguars would have donned SWAC championship caps and T-shirts and cut down the nets to commemorate their title had they beaten TSU.

“But we don’t celebrate losing outcomes,” he said.

Junior forward Calvin Godfrey said the Jaguars’ downfall Saturday was trying to do too much individually in the four seniors’ final home game.

“We’ve regained our focus since then,” he said.

NOTE: Reserve forward Damien Goodwin, who suffered a concussion against MVSU last month, did not make the trip.