Lady Braves muscle out win over Southern

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 31, 2005

LORMAN &045; Alcorn and Southern could probably play tiddlywinks and there

might be some tension.

So a midseason meeting between two of the better teams in the Southwestern Athletic Conference felt more like a postseason game, complete with the largest home crowd of the season for Alcorn and the marching band in attendance to provide some entertainment.

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In the midst of that atmosphere, Alcorn State (11-6, 7-2) fought back from a 13-point first-half deficit to get a 64-54 win over rival Southern (8-10, 5-4).

Southern led by 13 at 26-13 after The Lady Jaguars’ Ashley Blake hit a layup with 7:17 left to go in the first half. Southern generally relied on the outside shot throughout the contest, and in the first half it worked, but when the shots stopped falling after the break, Alcorn got back in the swing of things.

&uot;We lost and they won. We didn’t hit any shots in the second half like we did in the first,&uot; Southern coach Sandy Pugh said. &uot;They were the same shots we hit all the time and they just didn’t fall.&uot;

The Lady Braves went to a box-and-one defense, playing zone with four players and man-to-man against Southern’s Rolanda Monroe, who torched Alcorn for 17 points in the first half. The defense seemed to work, as Monroe finished the game with just 19.

&uot;We changed the defense. Monroe tried to beat us all by herself,&uot; Alcorn head coach Shirley Walker said. &uot;We were in foul trouble in the first half, but we went to the box-and-one and it was working. We just wanted to force Monroe back to the (point guard position), so we denied her the ball and she wasn’t effective after that.&uot;

Alcorn also started pushing the ball up the floor more to try to exploit questionable transition defense by the Lady Jaguars.

&uot;We got things going when I started pushing the ball,&uot; Alcorn point guard Shikhia Sims said. &uot;Their transition break wasn’t getting back on defense fast enough, and we got some good looks.&uot;

Sims pushed the ball often, recording all three of her assists in the contest in the second half.

Alcorn made up ground steadily throughout the second half, tying the game at 39 after a 9-1 run. Natasha Dennis hit two jumpers at the end of that run to square things with 12:32 left in the game.

&uot;I was worried our players might take (this game) too light,&uot; Walker said. &uot;But our veterans, Tnonealyer Roberts and Dennis, had tremendous games. We’re proud of them.&uot;

Dennis had 12 points and Powers had 10 in the game as they shot a combined 11 for 22 from the field. Dennis also had a team-high seven rebounds and a career-best five blocks.

Alcorn went ahead for good a minute later when LaToya Johnson drove to the middle of the lane and hit an acrobatic one-handed shot off the glass to make the score 42-41 with 10:59 to go.

&uot;That’s one thing I used to do a lot, but I had stopped doing that over the summer,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;I had to go back to it tonight.&uot;

The first half was a classic case of teams trading runs back and forth, though the Lady Jaguars got the better end of them. Southern scored on five of its first six possessions to take a 12-7 lead, then went on another 12-4 run capped by two 3-pointers from Monroe to take a 24-11 lead with 8:30 left in the half.

Alcorn had to sit starters Sims and Candace Roberts for most of the first half as both got two fouls in the opening minutes. Without Sims, Alcorn was forced to go with its backup point guards for 14 minutes in the first half.

&uot;Our little freshman, Tanika Nunez, gave us some good minutes, and Tiffaney Smith gave us some good minutes at the point,&uot; Walker said.

Southern’s superior 3-point shooting was a huge difference in the first half. The Lady Jaguars hit five of 11 shots from behind the arc, while Lady Braves hit none of their three 3-point tries. Monroe was four-of-six for Southern.