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Lady Eagles can’t finish off Cougs

    The Lady Eagles had the shot they wanted.
    With no time left on the clock and Georgia Southern down by one, freshman Carolyn Whitney attempted the game-winner, a 19-foot jumper from the left wing. Whether or not she was fouled or blocked was debatable, but the ball came no where near the basket, a frustrating close to a disappointing Southern Conference opener for the Eagles.
    Poor shooting and a lack of intensity doomed GSU Saturday when the Eagles fell to the College of Charleston 54-53 at Hanner Fieldhouse — the Cougars’ first victory ever at the Eagles’ home. Charleston was 0-12 at Hanner prior to Saturday.
    Three days after shooting 55.2 percent in a win over Jacksonville, GSU’s four-game win streak screeched to a halt with a 27.9 percent effort. The Eagles (5-6, 0-1) were 17 of 61 on field goals (6 of 28 in the first half) and 1 of 12 on 3-pointers. Charleston wasn’t much better, turning in a 31.3 clip for the game.
    “When you don’t play intense and you don’t play with a purpose, you are not going to shoot the ball well,” Eagle coach Rusty Cram said. “This isn’t junior high school where you can just show up and play and think you are going to play well. You’ve got to play intense the whole time, and we didn’t.”
    Prior to her final attempt, Whitney pulled the Eagles within one on a 3 from the left side with 43 seconds to go. She was knocked to the ground on the attempt, but a whistle never blew.
    “I wanted the ball in my hands,” Whitney said. “I was feeling confident at that point, and I just wanted to do anything I can to help the team win. Luckily I hit the shot. They didn’t call the foul, but you can’t always rely on the foul.”
    From there, GSU stole the ball away twice — once by Ashley Melson and the other by Tiffany Brown — but missed its final five tries.
    “We had four or five looks, but I thought we panicked,” Cram said. “We didn’t play very smart basketball from the time the game started to the end. I can’t tell you when I’ve seen a worse basketball game. I’m at a loss. I wasn’t expecting that. I’m very, very disappointed to say the least. I don’t think anybody stepped out there and played that game to win tonight.”
    After taking a 30-28 lead at the break, Charleston led the entire second half until Melson’s layup put the home team on top 48-47 with 4:08 remaining. But the Eagles couldn’t hold on and the Cougars regained the lead seconds later on a Jade Hughes 3.
    Whitney finished with a game-high 14 for GSU, while Shawnda Atwood added 10. Charleston (3-5, 0-1) placed three in double figures led by Erika Smith with 14, Hughes with 11 and Jill Furstenburg with 10.
    “We didn’t show up to play tonight,” Cram said. “They out-hustled us, they were aggressive and we made dumb decisions. I thought we got whipped from start to finish in the fundamental part of the game. I just didn’t think we showed any heart tonight. We tried a little bit at the end to show some heart and salvage the game, but it was too little too late.”
    Georgia Southern will use the next few days to regroup before hosting non-conference foe Troy Thursday at 7 p.m. in its final game before the Christmas break.
    “We just need to get it together,” Whitney said. “We need to use this game for inspiration and use it to get better. We definitely need to come out harder. That was just awful.”
    Cram said he’ll be doing some major evaluating before the Eagles resume SoCon play Dec. 30 at home against Furman.
    “I’m going to find out who really wants to be here and who doesn’t,” Cram said. “This is your first conference game, this is what you’ve been getting ready for, and to go out and stink like we did tonight – that’s totally unacceptable. My job now is to go back, regroup them and find some heart. That’s my job, and we’ll do that. We’ll push them hard, get after them and find out what we’re made of.”
    Notes: Twenty seven fouls were called during a scrappy first half when Charleston was whistled 15 times and GSU 12. …Sixteen of Southern’s 28 first-half points came on free throws. …Disappointed with the play of his upperclassmen in the first half, Cram opted to start the final 20 minutes with four freshmen on the floor.

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