After disheartening loss, Alcorn starts SWAC on road

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 9, 2004

LORMAN &045; As far as the Alcorn Braves are concerned, that embarrassing 74-41 loss at Jacksonville State was a year ago.

Not four days ago.

Saturday will start the new year for Braves basketball and a new portion of the schedule as they enter SWAC play with a road swing in Texas. The Braves (1-7) just had to erase Tuesday’s game from memory for Saturday’s conference tip-off at Texas Southern and remember the better times.

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Maybe it was the holiday break. Maybe it was just the final game of the pre-conference schedule awaiting. But Alcorn played better up until then, and that’s what the Braves are hoping to regain.

&uot;My first talk with them today is we need to put ’03 behind us,&uot;

Alcorn head coach Sam West said. &uot;That was pre-conference. You want to do well, but it was tough. They’re getting used to me, and they’re so young. This is our second season, and we need to play like it. We’ve played well in spots. We need some consistency, and our leadership is not what it needs to be.&uot;

It’s been a rough go in the pre-conference at times for West and the Braves, although that wasn’t the case in their 70-68 win over that same Jacksonville State team at the Whitney Complex Dec. 13 for their first win over the season.

Like Alcorn teams of the past, the Braves stacked up a tough pre-conference schedule and played well in losses to Southern Miss and two to Stephen F. Austin.

But then Tuesday’s road bump hit, and having guards DeAndre Jones and Brian Jackson &045; averaging nearly 23 points combined &045; playing with the flu didn’t help. Whether the two of them play Saturday remains to be seen along with Almaad Jackson, who is also fighting an illness.

But the team’s difficulties, West said, go beyond some players battling the flu.

&uot;They probably won’t even play, but it’s a day-by-day thing,&uot; West said. &uot;It’s just leadership. I’ll be honest with you. It’ll take a little growing up on our part as a team and understand really what we’re supposed to be doing. It takes time.&uot;

At least this weekend the Braves will have a chance to respond in a tough environment as they open conference with possibly the toughest teams in the conference in Texas Southern Saturday and Prairie View Tuesday.

The two were picked to finish 1-2 in the preseason poll with the Tigers getting the edge as the favorite after defeating Alcorn in the tournament championship last season. Prairie View, under second-year head coach Jerome Francis, should be a force in the SWAC although coming in 0-9 with a tough pre-conference schedule of their own.

&uot;That’s good,&uot; West said of the trip. &uot;We get a chance to play the No. 1 and 2 teams in the conference first. It gives us a chance to know where we are as far as conference is concerned. On tape (TSU) looks better. They’re without their best player from last year. They’re reloaded with some new kids who can really play.&uot;

The Tigers, like Alcorn and Prairie View, come into the contest after a bumpy ride through pre-conference with losses to Baylor and Colorado State but with a win over Idaho State Dec. 20 at Hawaii.

Junior Allen Lovett was a Preseason All-SWAC selection, but he’s one of four players averaging double figures in scoring for head coach Ronnie Courtney. Sean Walker and Damien Smith are the team’s top two scorers at a combined 23 points a game.

&uot;They have a very good inside game,&uot; West said. &uot;Their forwards are the key to the team. They’re very athletic and very mature.&uot;

The Braves will have to turn in a better shooting performance than Tuesday’s poor showing from the field for the two games. It’s probably the biggest issue confronting them after going almost the first 10 minutes of the game without a field goal.

The Braves hit just five field goals the entire first half and shot a season-low 25.5 percent for the game.

&uot;It was our first game back,&uot; West said. &uot;They (JSU) shot extremely well, and we were not patient at all. That really put us in a hole early. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to do it this weekend. It’s a matter of time. I know I’ve been saying that after every game, but it’s just a matter of time.&uot;