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Georgia edges Lady Eagles, 75-71

GSU battles ranked Bulldogs to wire at Hanner

    If one thing was obvious after Georgia Southern’s 75-71 loss to eighth-ranked Georgia Tuesday at Hanner Fieldhouse, it’s that these Lady Eagles are on the right track.
    GSU played toe-to-toe with the visiting Bulldogs, a team that advanced to the Sweet 16 in last year’s NCAA tournament. The Lady Eagles led the majority of the first half, tied a school record with 13 3-pointers and placed four in double figures.
    “I love this team,” GSU coach Rusty Cram said. “They’ve got fight. They’ve got grit. They get down, and they work hard. Just one of these days we are going to get that break. Through the first four ballgames we seemed to have a four or five minute lapse at some point in the game, and we avoided that tonight. We had a couple of minutes where we didn’t score, but you are playing the No. 8 team in the country.”
    Georgia Southern pulled within two points when Ashley Rivens hit a jumper with 1:14 remaining. The Bulldogs then missed a layup, GSU freshman Carolyn Whitney grabbed the defensive rebound and handed it off to Tiffany Brown. As Brown drove the ball down the court, she was whistled for traveling, a costly turnover with 31 seconds left.
    “It was a major call at that point,” Cram said. “I’ve never seen that call made at this level, and I’ll just leave it at that. Actually, when the whistle blew, I thought maybe they had called a timeout or something. It surprised me that they called a walk there, but that’s one call in a ballgame, and you can’t pin it to one call.”
    After the foul, Georgia sealed the win by hitting 2 of 4 free throws and Southern missed its final two 3-point attempts.
    The Lady Eagles’ largest lead was eight, an advantage they held four times, lastly when Brown’s jumper put GSU up 28-20 at the 7:50 mark of the first half. The game was tied on five occasions and the lead changed 13 times.
    Georgia Southern’s balanced offensive attack was led by Brown’s 18 points and five assists, while Rivens added 13, Ashley Melson had 11 and Whitney scored 10. The Lady Eagles lead 38-35 at the half after a layup by Chequilla Jessie.
    “We just looked at this game as a big opportunity to play the No. 8 team in the nation and show what we can do against them,” Melson said.
    Five Lady Bulldogs reached double figures including Angel Robinson with 18, Janese Hardrick (15), Rebecca Rowsey, Ashley Houts and Cori Chambers (11 each). Georgia never led by more than four points.
    Georgia Southern’s 13 3s tied the most ever against Georgia and the most since the Lady Eagles hit that many on Feb. 8, 2000 against Appalachian State. Southern attempted a school record 30 3s.
    “They were very good tonight,” Georgia coach Andy Landers said of GSU (1-4). “They shot the 3 terrifically.”
    The loss was Georgia Southern’s fourth straight after winning the season opener 62-46 over Stetson. Georgia improved to 4-0.
    “We are 1-4 now, but you’d never know it by the way we play,” Cram said. “I don’t feel like we’ve lost to a team that we are better than. We will continue to get better.”
    Georgia Southern’s toughness was epitomized on one second-half possession when the Lady Eagles missed their first two tries but grabbed both offensive rebounds before Brown hit a 3 to give the home team a 56-53 edge with 8:53 to play. Brown’s shot came in the middle of three consecutive 3s by Southern.
    “If we keep this up and play like this in the conference, then we should be really good,” Brown. “We felt like we came out hard both halves and outworked them. We kept up with them.”
    The Lady Eagles will face New Mexico Friday at 8 p.m. in the AmeriSuites Midtown Thanksgiving Tournament in Albuquerque, N.M. Georgia hosts Stanford Sunday at 3 p.m.

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