Jags open SBC Tournament against Coastal Carolina Wednesday
MOBILE, Ala. - The march towards the NCAA postseason starts Wednesday when the University of South Alabama men's basketball team opens the Sun Belt Conference Tournament against Coastal Carolina.
The ninth-seeded Jaguars will take on the No. 8 seed Chanticleers at 11:30 a.m. in Lakefront Arena. Audio will be available on 99.5 FM or iHeartRadio.com, and a videostream can be seen on ESPN3.com. Updates during the game will be provided on Twitter at @SouthAlaMBK and live stats on SunBeltSports.org.
"I'm very excited that we were able to win our last home game," USA head coach Matthew Graves said. "I'm really proud of those seniors being able to walk off the Mitchell Center floor with a victory. Now as our focus turns to Coastal Carolina, I feel like we have some confidence moving forward and we just need a couple of good days of practice."
South Alabama enters the tournament with a 14-17 overall record and a 7-11 mark in the conference, and is coming off a last-second win on Senior Day over Arkansas State, that saw senior Ken Williams (Houston, Texas) hit a 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds left.
"First and foremost, it gives us confidence in knowing we can beat anybody in this league. We've been saying that, but until you validate it with a win, you're not sure. Now that we've got the win, we've got a great lesson to talk to. We've fought through adversity. We had a lead, we lost a lead, we fought back, they hit a big shot, we came down and finished. What we hope it can do is springboard us into playing really good basketball these next four games, and once you get to conference tournaments, as we've all seen, anything's possible."
Williams scored a season-high 25 points Saturday, the third-most by a Jaguar this season, and his most since last February. He also tied his season best with four 3-pointers and became the school's all-time leader in 3s made (251) and games played (126).
Revenge will be on the mind of the Jaguars who let a 14-point halftime lead slip away to the Chanticleers on Feb. 20 in an 81-77 overtime loss. USA fell despite outshooting CCU and barely losing the turnover battle.
"I think the biggest keys to take from that game was, obviously you have to play a full 40 minutes, and we have to do a much better job of rebounding the basketball," Graves said. "It was one of our poorest efforts on the defensive glass all year. We have to take much better pride in rebounding the basketball, but at the same time, I felt like we did a great job of making them take a tough shot to start the offense. We held them under 40 percent shooting, but you've got to be able to finish the play, and they do a great job of going to the offensive glass."
Jaylen Shaw is Coastal Carolina's all-conference honoree, but it was the team's second-leading scorer, Elijah Wilson, that hurt South Alabama in the previous meeting with 21 points. Shaw averages 14.1 points and is seventh in the league with 3.6 assists per game, and Wilson 13.3 points and 2.7 triples per game.
Demario Beck (18 points, 14 rebounds) and Colton Ray-St. Cyr (15, 16) both had double-doubles against the Jags.
"They have a lot of different weapons and guys that can score," Graves noted. "I really like their versatility and they bring a guy or two off the bench that can give you energy or make a 3-point shot, so offensively, they can hurt you in a lot of different ways and will test us defensively. That's why we've got to be extremely locked in, not only defending that first shot, but, and I can't emphasize this enough, we've got to rebound the basketball."