Women's Basketball Preview: Southern
2016-17 Record and Finish: 14-14 (11-7 SWAC); Lost in SWAC Tournament Semifinals
Key Returners: F Briana Green, G Skylar O’Bear, G Samantha Duncan
Key Losses: F Cortnei Purnell, C Miaya Crowder
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A perennial contender every season, Southern typically expects to be a factor in title conversation. This season is no different, as the Jaguars are motivated to once again hoist the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship.
Longtime coach Sandy Pugh returns a good bit of the firepower from the 2016-17 squad. With the sour taste of last year’s season-ending loss – as well as preseason predictions that the team finds to be a bit too low – still lingering in the mouths of this year’s Jaguars team, Southern considers itself more than a dark horse title contender.
Senior Briana Green returns at forward and is set to once again be the offensive catalyst for the Jaguars. Southern stands to bring back eight letter-winners, so the cupboard is more than just the perennial All-SWAC performer.
At guard, Skylar O’Bear and Samantha Duncan offer steady experience in the backcourt to flank Green as secondary scoring options. O’Bear (8.6 PPG, 2.0 APG, 1.7 SPG) projects as the premier markswoman for the Jaguars this season, knocking down 32 percent of her treys last season.
Duncan primarily operated as the key reserve last season, averaging 6.6 points and 3.1 boards a game. With a potential expansion of her role to come, Duncan is a top candidate as a breakout player in the league.
Perhaps the most intriguing development on the Bluff to watch is the emergence of a bonafide interior option for the Jaguars. With the graduation of Miaya Crowder, Southern will need a post player to assert herself and fortify the inside.
Sarai Blissett (3.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG) looks like the top choice for the role, and freshmen Briana Thompson and Kennedi Lofton may figure in as well.
Southern’s out-of-conference schedule features tilts versus Indiana (Nov. 14), Wisconsin (Nov. 20), Oklahoma State (Nov. 30), Auburn (Dec. 9) and South Florida (Dec. 15). The Jaguars open the season with a home tilt against the University of Mobile on Nov. 11.