The Southern women’s basketball team seems to have righted the ship after a rough start to the Southwestern Athletic Conference season.
The Jaguars, who are the defending conference champions and preseason pick to repeat, lost two of their first three games, matching their loss total for the 18-game SWAC schedule last season.
But since then they have made significant improvement with decisive victories against Jackson State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Mississippi Valley State.
At 4-2 they are tied for second place with Alcorn State, a half-game behind Texas Southern (4-1), which beat the Jaguars at the F.G. Clark Activity Center on Jan. 5.
Southern has an important road trip coming up this weekend when it faces two of the three teams that are even with it in the loss column with 3-2 records. The Jaguars play at Alabama A&M on Saturday and at Alabama State on Monday. Prairie View, which lost to Southern in the conference opener, also is 3-2. The standings are tightly bunched as six teams have one or two losses.
The Jaguars’ three-game win streak has coincided with several key players showing improvement. Senior post player Jasmine Jefferson, a preseason all-SWAC player, played well below par until having had a breakout game against Jackson State. She has seemed like a different player during the win streak, thought she did miss most of the first half of a 70-57 victory against Valley on Monday because of foul trouble.
Freshman forward Briana Green says she’s feeling close to 100 percent as she nears the one-year anniversary of surgery to repair a torn ACL she suffered as a high-school senior in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last season. She has become a solid complement to Jefferson inside and succeeded in an expanded role while Jefferson sat Monday.
Guard Britney Washington, like Jefferson, has shaken off a disappointing start to the season to play better of late. She was a very effective sixth man last season and has started and come off the bench this season. She seems more comfortable in both roles compared to the start of the season.
Senior Kendra Coleman has become the primary point guard, though she also plays in her customary spot at the shooting guard. Her move has brought more consistent ball handling and decision-making to the point, though Bonnie Scott has been solid defensively and has had good moments while playing fewer minutes at the point.
Post player Yasmine Nelson tore the meniscus in her knee in a loss at Grambling on Jan. 10 and didn’t play again until Monday. She played just three minutes and was clearly hobbled. The injury likely will restrict her playing time to specific match-ups where her limitations won’t be exposed.
Kenidi Robinson, a key inside player, is out indefinitely after having surgery to repair a broken bone in her chin. Coach Sandy Pugh said Robinson won’t return until March, if at all.
Despite the injuries in the frontcourt, the Jaguars have shown pretty good depth.
All in all, the Jaguars seem to be headed in the right direction but the road trip to Alabama will be the biggest challenge to date.