South Alabama looks to end road losing streak, pick up first Sun Belt win against UALR tonight Freshman Ken 'Juice' Williams has been a started for the Jaguars all season and is expected to be in the starting lineup tonight when the Jags play Arkansas-Little Rock on the road in an Sun Belt Conference game. (Photo by Brad Puckett, courtesy of South Alabama)
- can end a couple of streakstonight when it faces at the Jack Stephens Center. Shouldthe Jaguars defeat UALR on its home floor, it would mark their first road winof the season as well as their first victory of the season.
You can bet the Jaguars have been reminded of those facts asthey head into tonight's 7 p.m. tipoff.
But in order for the streaks to end, South Alabama must topa potent Trojans' team that is 2-0 in Sun Belt games and has two of the league'stop scorers and two of its top rebounders in its lineup. Equally, the Jags mustimprove their own performance.
"Coach (Steve) Shields has his team playing at a really goodlevel,'' South Alabama head coach said of UALR. "What's impressiveabout their team is they really don't do anything great, but at the same time,they don't do anything poor either. They're very solid on offense, very solidon defense.
"They have a player in the (Will) Neighbour kid that isplaying at a first-team, all-conference level. And he'll be a tough matchup forus; he's a 6-10 kid that can play inside and outside and we'll have to reallykey on him. I think the last thing we have to do is we have to bring atoughness mindset to us. They're a team that will really try to grind you outon the defensive end of the floor and we've got to be very tough-minded andfight through some adversity, especially being on the road.''
Neighbour is averaging 17.7 points and 7.4 rebounds a game.That ranks seventh in the Sun Belt in scoring and sixth in rebounding. JoshHagins (11.9 points, 19th in theleague) and James White (6.2 rebounds, 10th in the league) offertheir help.
South Alabama will counter with Augustine Rubit, who isninth in scoring (16.4) and third in rebounding (9.8), as well as with MychalAmmons (25th in scoring at 10.3, fifth in rebounding at 7.4) andAntoine Allen (27th in scoring at 10.1).
But Graves is looking for contributions across the board andthat begins, he said following last Saturday's loss to Georgia State, with morepassion in the play of his team as well as more consistency. He said the practicesleading up to tonight's game would be important in determining who wouldreceive the majority of the playing time.
"I feel like, not everybody, but some people have made somestrides in that area and I really like that because it shows who's willing tofight and step up and take some ownership and some pride in the program,''Graves said of players stepping forward in practices this week. "There weresome players who stepped up and I was very encouraged by that the last coupleof practices.
"I'm leaning toward starting the same group that we startedprior (to tonight's game), but there will definitely be some changes in the rotationoff the bench and minutes played off the bench. That's where you're going tosee the bulk of the change.''
The biggest change Graves is looking for, obviously, is inresults - and hoping the end of the Jaguars' road woes ends tonight with theirfirst Sun Belt win.
"I think we need to show a consistency and a maturity thatwhen things don't go well we don't hit the abort button and we don't panic; westay the course and stay with our gameplan,'' he said. "Whether that's how wewant to guard defensively or the type of shots that we're looking to shoot. Ifa team goes on a 6-0 run or an 8-2 run, that doesn't mean the game is over. We'vegot to continue to stay the course.
"That's an area where we really need to continue to grow. It'sa combination of being a part of a news system and having some young playersmixed in with the older guys. I'm really looking for more of that consistencyand staying the course through some adversity.''
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