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Southern corks Dolphins

    Once Jacksonville pulled within two points with 44 seconds to go, the Lady Eagles knew exactly what to do.
    “We had to get control of the ball, slow down, bring the ball up the court and not rush it,” said junior guard Tiffany Brown.
    And that’s precisely how GSU handled JU’s full-court press, which the Dolphins implemented after sophomore Virginia Gregoire nailed a 3-pointer to cut Georgia Southern’s lead to 71-69. The Eagles quickly broke loose and found Ashley Rivens on a fast-break layup, stretching GSU’s advantage to 73-69.
    From there, Christa Waterman hit a pair of free throws with 13 seconds remaining and Carolyn Whitney added another to seal Southern’s fourth straight win, a 76-69 victory over the Dolphins Wednesday at Hanner Fieldhouse.
    Brown and Rivens led four Eagles in double figures with 15 points each, while Whitney added 11 and Shawnda Atwood scored 10. GSU’s composure late in the game was the difference, Eagle coach Rusty Cram said.
    “To have no seniors out here and a freshman point guard — we handled their pressure very well,” he said. “That’s going to go a long way for us because that was one of the things we were very weak in. We are just getting better and better in that situation.”
    Georgia Southern led the entire game and had a spectacular showing offensively in the first half when they hit 67.7 percent of their shots and scored 44 points. The Eagles, who were successful with their back-door cuts early in the game, ended the first 20 minutes with a 13-6 run and led 44-35 at the break.
    “Tonight we just came out ready to play,” said Rivens. “We knew what the other team was going to do, we stuck with them and we played hard. (In the end) we kept our composure. We are used to being in close situations, most of our games have been like that. We just held it together.”
    Ten different Lady Eagle scored, including Waterman with eight, Ashley Melson with seven and Chequilla Jessie with four. Georgia Southern shot 55.2 percent for the game, while holding JU to 39.4 percent shooting.
    Wednesday’s loss was the fourth straight for the Dolphins (4-4), who are coached by former Lady Eagle Jill Dunn, a three-year starter at GSU from 1989-1993. JU also had four players reach double figures led by Gregorie’s game-high of 16.
    “That’s the quickest team we’ve played this year, hand-wise, feet-wise — they are just exceptionally quick,” Cram said. “They were quicker than Georgia, New Mexico and South Florida. They didn’t have the size those schools had, but they had every bit of the quickness and more.”
    GSU opens Southern Conference play Saturday against the College of Charleston. Tip-off is 5 p.m. at Hanner Fieldhouse.

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.

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