A hot start by the Texas Southern University women’s basketball team -would turn into a sluggish finish as the Tigers dropped a 70-62 decision to Southern University to open play in the Southwestern Athletic Conference for both teams.
“I feel like we were a little lethargic,” said TSU first-year head coach Vernette Skeete in a postgame interview. “I think it’s really hard to get home and play because we want to do so well.”
TSU got out to a 7-0 start just 2:40 into the contest thanks to made shots from Taniya Lawson, Jaida Belton and Micah Gray as well as a made free throw from Lawson. Southern finally got on the scoreboard with 6:25 left in the first quarter on a Genovea Johnson layup. After about another 2:30, Diamond Hunter scored as well as two more makes from Johnson and the Jaguars (4-8, 1-0 SWAC) had their first lead of the contest.
A back-and-forth battle ensued over the final portion of the first quarter and thanks to a lack of consistency at the charity stripe, TSU (0-12, 0-1 SWAC) would only hold a 14-13 lead at the end of the period.
Coming into the contest, TSU averaged 35.6 rebounds per contest compared to Southern’s 27.3 per game. It would have been expected that the taller Tigers squad would have owned the battle of the boards, but for whatever reason, the Jaguars seemed to pick up key rebounds throughout the game despite being outsized at almost every position.
Southern would finish with a 41-34 advantage in rebounds including seven each from Johnson and Sky Castro.
“They were killing us on the boards very early getting a lot of second chance points,” added Skeete. “We didn’t execute down the stretch like we needed to because we were very tired. It is extremely hot in here, but it was hot in here for them too. We have to work our way through that. It took a lot of our energy out.”
As the second quarter moved along and more fans entered the H&PE Arena for the conclusion of the women’s game and for the men’s game, the youthfulness in the Tigers showed.
TSU would shoot just 3-for-10 in the second quarter including 1-for-5 from long range and 5-for-8 from the free throw line for just 12 points, but thankfully Southern wasn’t adjusted to the settings either and had a bad quarter as well shooting just 6-for-19 as the Jaguars led 28-26 at the half.
The Tigers had every chance to get back into the game and make runs to overcome whatever deficit they had at the time, but unforced errors plagued the squad all night as they committed five turnovers in each period for a total of 20, which did not please Skeete.
“A lot of them were unforced unfortunately,” Skeete stated when asked about the team’s turnover problems. “It is just part of us and our maturation.”
It is that maturation that is still coming along, but once the Tigers get there and have everyone healthy then this can be a team that will challenge for a SWAC title. Tonight was the second straight game without the scoring ability of Adriana Avent, who has averaged 16.9 point this season.
Both teams scored 18 points each in the third quarter and Southern won the fourth 24-18 mainly to TSU’s need to send the Jaguars to the free throw line to extend the game to which they went 13-of-19 to seal the deal and earn the victory.
Johnson’s 21 points for Southern would barely lead all players as TSU’s Taniya Lawson recorded her fourth double-digit outing of the season and a new career best with 20 points. Gray, who was a few days removed from one of the highest (33 points) single-game scoring outputs in the last 12 seasons, added 15 points while Alisa Knight hauled in nine rebounds to lead all players.
The Tigers have little time to rest before their next outing when they host Grambling State inside the H&PE Arena on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. GSU won its SWAC opener tonight in a 66-60 decision at Prairie View A&M.