GAMES NOTES: The Southern Jaguars will finally get their postseason underway on Friday night when they take on the Alabama A&M Bulldogs in the semifinals of the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament at the Culwell Center.
The winner of this contest with face either Prairie View A&M or Jackson State in Saturday's championship game.
The Bulldogs, the sixth-seed in the tourney, bested seventh-seed Grambling State, 59-51, on Wednesday to advance to the semifinal round. The win was the second in the last three games for the Bulldogs, however both of the victories came against Grambling State which did not have a win all season. Alabama A&M is now 11-19 overall, finishing 6-12 in league action this year.
Thanks to NCAA sanctions on regular season champion Texas Southern and runner- up Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Southern Utah earned the No. 1 seed and a bye through the first round. Though the Jaguars slipped into the top seed they still had a very strong season as their 21-9 overall record was the best in the league, while their 15-3 conference record tied for second.
Southern posted a pair of 14-point victories against Alabama A&M to sweep the season series. The Jaguars have won four straight against the Bulldogs but still trail in the all-time series, 15-13.
In a first-round matchup that featured little in terms of offensive success, Alabama A&M was just a bit better than Grambling State. The Bulldogs shot just over 40 percent from the field while limiting Grambling State to just 32.1 percent. Demarquelle Tabb hung up 15 points to match 15 boards in the contest.
Tabb (13.9 ppg, 9.5 rpg) is a double-double threat every time he steps on the floor as the SWAC's leading rebounder. The 6-foot-5 forward has had double- digit rebounds in three of the last four games and has been in double figures in six of the last seven. Providing additional offensive support are Jeremy Crutcher (11.8 ppg, 4.9 apg), who is also one of the better passers in the league, and Brandon Ellis (11.0 ppg). In comparison to the rest of the league the Bulldogs are an average offensive team, scoring 63.3 points per game and shooting 39.8 percent from the floor, both of which rank fifth in the league.
Southern has been off for nearly two weeks with its last game on March 2 when it posted a 61-39 victory over Prairie View A&M in the regular-season finale. The Jaguars were relentless on defense forcing 15 turnovers, while holding Prairie View to just 14 field goals on 25.5 percent shooting.
The Jaguars compare favorably in a number of statistical categories among the SWAC, ranking second in points (68.3 ppg) and field-goal percentage (.438), while fitting in among the top 15 teams nationally in points allowed (58.4 pg) and opponent field goal percentage (.364). The Jaguars are also the only team in the conference (eligible) to place any players on the All-SWAC first team with Derick Beltran (15.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and Malcolm Miller (16.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg) both earning honors. Jameel Grace (9.2 ppg) and Javan Mitchell (9.6 ppg) serve well as complimentary scorers while Brandon Moore (6.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg) tops the Jaguars on the boards.
This tournament is really Southern's to lose with two of the top contenders sidelined. Expect the Jaguars to prove why in this matchup.