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SWAC Notebook

January 14, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Southwestern Athletic Conference Notebook

by Joaquin Mesa

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! HalleBerry! Life couldn’t get much better then this! It looks like there is a legitimate tournament team in the SWAC. I know, I know, it’s a miracle! I’ve been wishing and hoping and praying every night for success in one of the conferences that I was covering, and alas, it looks as if my prayers have finally been answered. Thank you Aphrodite.

Now, I may seem like a bit of a bandwagoner since I’ve never been much of a Delta Devil fan, that’s Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils if you haven’t yet bandwagoned, but I figure that the Double D’s might appreciate a little fan support (Get it, Double D’s, support). Anyway, after beating Northwestern in a nail biter 49-47, Mississippi Valley State has represented well with three straight victories over SWAC opponents. In reality, they have yet to be challenged in conference play. With their 9-4 overall record, they are a sight for sore eyes, and dag nab it, if they ain’t a itchin’ for a championship. They will have a Southern University team that is ready to jump above five hundred for the first time this year, as is Texas Southern University. If they can jump those hurdles, then they might even win twenty this year. Ain’t half bad.

Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils (3-0 conference, 9-4 overall)

60-47 W at Alabama State
72-60 W at Alabama A&M

They are over five hundred with room to spare, and the momentum they have coming into the heart of their conference schedule is astounding. They’ve beaten conference foes by an average of 18 points a game, and even beaten a Big 10 team. Attarrius Norwood continues his scoring for a team that desperately needs it, since its top four scorers are all shooting below forty percent on the year. Lucky that this team has Willie Neal to grab all the rebounds, otherwise, they might not be sitting so pretty atop the SWAC.

Jackson State Tigers (3-1 conference, 5-8 overall)

78-71 W at Alcorn State
78-64 L at Southern University

Jackson State fared better then Arkansas Pine Bluff against Oklahoma, but losing by 22 is essentially the same as losing by 70. There might be an ego or two that would say differently over at Arkansas Pine Bluff, but who is really asking them anyway? The seniors on this team are really stepping it up, hoping to get back onto the right track. They are leading the charge with Southern University and Mississippi Valley State atop the leader board, but they have a distinct disadvantage with a bad non-conference showing. If they were to win the conference, they most likely would not be seeded very high, even with a strong conference showing. Thus, this team really has to struggle to become a team that can battle quality opponents late into games.

Southern University Jaguars (3-1 conference, 6-7 overall)

73-63 W Grambling State
78-64 W Jackson State

The Jaguars followed their 65-47 loss at Texas Southern with two strong showings against some of the better teams in the conference in Grambling State and Jackson State. It seems that they finally woke up from a seven game sleepwalk in which they lost five of seven, and their two wins were both by two points. The problem to date seems to be turnovers. However, this isn’t something that can’t be fixed. After all, they aren’t playing the likes of LSU or Tulane anymore. They get a one game break before heading out to Mississippi to play the Delta Devils, so they can figure out how to catch and hold onto the ball against Arkansas Pine Bluff. Good luck.

Texas Southern Tigers (2-1 conference, 6-7 overall)

66-62 L Prairie View A&M
77-67 L at Texas A&M Corpus Christi

A loss to the “island school” was a little disappointing, and they aren’t going to get a break against Grambling State on Saturday or Jackson State on Monday. In fact, they aren’t going to get any tears from me either. The team that was supposed to win the conference couldn’t even pull off a win over Prairie View A&M, a team that had an 11 game losing streak going into their game against the Tigers. Though 2-1 in conference play, this has got to be a very disappointing start for coach Ronnie Courtney. Anyone shooting more then 2 threes game on this team is also averaging less then 30 percent from behind the arc, and their two leading scorers are hovering around forty percent from the field. This isn’t going to get it done. Lionel Willis has not stepped up into the dominant role he needs to play as a senior, and he better do it quick if this team wants to stay in contention early for the regular season championship.

Grambling State Tigers (2-2 conference, 4-10 overall)

73-63 L at Southern University
75-61 W at Alcorn State

Paul Haynes has been the surprise performer on this team, a team that needed the dominant inside force to accommodate the stellar guard play of Brion Rush and Maurice Seawright. Haynes is averaging 18 points a game and 7.4 rebounds. Those numbers are great, absolutely great, and he has given the Tigers the stability that they so needed. That having been said, they have lost some doozies: 83-36 to Georgetown to open the season, 105-56 to Auburn, 73-35 to Saint Louis, and 99-71 to TCU. Plus, they have allowed two teams to score a hundred on them. However, they have themselves scored 100 points on two different occasions, losing one of the games 103-101 to Texas A&M. This team can either shoot themselves in the foot, or rise to the occasion. Weird, isn’t it? Defense, defense, defense…how many times do you hear good coaches preaching about how defense wins games, not offense. Perhaps Grambling State should listen to these coaches.

Prairie View A&M Panthers (1-2 conference, 1-11 overall)

74-67 L Alcorn State
66-62 W at Texas Southern

Perhaps the win on Texas Southern’s home court will be just the thing to inspire the Panthers to turn around their season. Perhaps that first taste of blood will spark their fury. Perhaps….you know what, this team couldn’t beat Air Force, and how many seven footers do you know that can fly a plane, let alone fit in one. They most likely will lose to Jackson State, and proceed to fall to the depths of the SWAC conference alongside Arkansas Pine Bluff and Alabama State.

Arkansas Pine Bluff Golden Lions (1-2 conference, 1-11 overall)

71-41 L at Alabama A&M
61-54 W at Alabama State

This team beat Alabama State on Monday, but don’t expect that to happen again. I’m only going to say one thing about this team, and then I’ll leave it alone until next time. Their leading scorer, Lee Curry, my hero, is averaging 6.6 points per game.

Alabama State Hornets (1-3 conference, 3-10 overall)

60-47 L Mississippi Valley State
61-54 L Arkansas Pine Bluff

The emotional 60-53 win over Grambling State was followed by debilitating loses to Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State and Arkansas Pine Bluff. With a promising season ahead of them, they have yet to capitalize on the fact that they have the experience necessary to dominate the small conference that they are in. Lack of size seems to be hurting most of these SWAC teams, and the Hornets are no exception.

Alabama A&M Bulldogs (1-3 conference, 3-9 overall)

71-41 W Arkansas Pine Bluff
72-60 L Mississippi Valley State

Their one win in conference came against the worst team that I have seen in a while. How is the rebuilding process in Alabama you ask….well, Obie Trotter is coming along nicely. His percentages are down, but he doesn’t seem to mind taking shots, and as his confidence grows, so will his scoring average. Chris Collins is doing well coming off the bench, so look for him to start some more games down the stretch of the season.

Alcorn State Braves (1-3 conference, 2-9 overall)

78-71 L Jackson State
75-61 L Grambling State

Brian Jackson is living up to his billing, but two sophomores are helping to keep this team afloat. DeAndre Jones and Trey Johnson are giving the Braves some scoring. Now, if their sophomore skids can only wait until next year. Their shooting is suffering, but that is normal in a young team. They will get better down the stretch, trust me.


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