Jaguar Basketball exceeds expectations

Bryant Kwilecki | Sports Editor |  March 7, 2023

MOBILE, Ala. – The South Alabama Men’s basketball team played in the Sun Belt Tournament this past weekend. Though they fell short in the championship game to the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns with a final score of 71-66, the Jags still exceeded expectations. 

It was not that long ago when the Jags lost to Old Dominion and were 8-13 overall and 1-7 in conference play. Since that game, the Jags found their spark once again and went on to win eight of the last 10 games in the regular season, starting at an 8th seed in the conference tournament. They then proceeded to make their way through the tournament and ended up playing for a conference championship and a bid for the NCAA Tournament. 

“I know one thing – I’m a better coach and a better human being for getting to coach these dudes this year,” said Head Coach Richie Riley. “It’s big to make it to a title game. In our league, it’s huge because it’s so hard. It was great for our university and our basketball program.” 

On Thursday, March 2, the Jaguars faced off against Appalachian State in the second round and won 68-61 to advance to the quarterfinals. Isaiah Moore led the Jags in scoring with 20 points. In the quarterfinals, on Saturday, March 4, the Jags went up against the number one seed and regular season Sun Belt Champions, Southern Miss. They upset the Golden Eagles 78-61 with Owen White leading the Jags in scoring against Southern Miss and was 5-11 from the three-point line. They would advance to the semi-finals to face the James Madison Dukes and were able to pull off the upset again with a final score of 75-66 to advance to the Sun Belt Championship game. Moore led the Jags in scoring again this game with 18 points.

In the Championship game against the Ragin Cajuns, the Jags went into halftime with a 37-33 lead, but eventually, Louisiana would come back and win the game. Moore again led the Jags in scoring with a season-high of 33 points. Moore and White made the All-Tournament team for their impressive play.