It’s not surprising to see Alabama State lose to Southern, then go on the road and lose at Texas Southern.
After all, Southern is clearly playing the best basketball of any team in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and Texas Southern clearly has the most talent.
But to give up 86, 87 and 86 points in the last three games defies everything Lewis Jackson stands for. And as the ninth-year ASU coach gathers his team for the final three games of the season, he realizes the defensive performance in the last three games puts this team at a crossroads.
Continue playing the type of defense you’ve been playing the last three games and you’ll lose to Prairie View, Jackson State and Grambling. Play the way you played the first half of the season and all three games are winnable.
It’s not up to the coaches, it’s not up to the fans. It’s totally in the hands of the players.
“We have to get guys who want to play with the effort it takes to win games on defense,” Jackson observed. “Our last three games we have given up 86 points to all three of those opponents and we were fortunate enough to win one of those games at home. We have to get people to change their minds because if we play like this the rest of the way we may not win another game.”
They won’t. This team was whistled for a lot of fouls and gave up a lot of points at the free-throw line in the win over Alcorn, but the loss to Southern showed the problems that are surfacing with this team. They’re no longer playing as a unit, at least not defensively. They’re no longer taking care of their one-fifth of the court and when there are constant breakdowns by players, it causes other players to overcompensate and try to do too much, which makes them equally inefficient in stopping opponents.
“You have to come out and match intensity and our guys, one through five, are not getting it done,” Jackson said. “Over these last three games we have to find some guys that are going to come out and play with some enthusiasm.”
If Jackson can find five players who want to play team defense, the Hornets can get back on track in their final three games with three teams that are struggling as well. ASU should beat Prairie View, Jackson State and Grambling, but if they play the way they’ve played the last three games, they will likely lose two if not all three of their regular-season games.
“This is what basketball is all about,” Jackson said. “Everyone is trying to do the little things to win ball games and right now we are sitting at 9-6 with TSU and these last ball games are going to be crucial and we have to step up and do our job. We have an opportunity to get a split here (tonight) at PV before going home. But no matter where you play you have to come out and play with some energy and you have to play with some toughness.”