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Second-half scoring drought drops GSU to 0-2 in SoCon

    It wasn’t his team’s 14-minute field-goal drought that troubled Jeff Price the most. Nor was it the 4 of 25 second-half shooting or getting out-rebounded by 20.
    After UNC Greensboro handed Georgia Southern a 68-47 Southern Conference loss Saturday at Hanner Fieldhouse, the Eagle coach was more concerned with his squad’s lackadaisical effort, a flat performance that dropped GSU to 0-2 in league play.
    “More than not shooting the ball well, I just thought it was really uninspired basketball,” Price said. “In conference play you can’t play like that. I told our guys at halftime that if we have another half of uninspired basketball then we are going to get beat because they are too good. We weren’t aggressive enough — that’s the bottom line.”
    The Eagles (6-6, 0-2) led 35-29 at the break, but the game quickly spiraled out of their control in the final 20 minutes. After Donte Gennie’s layup gave the home team a 42-36 edge with 16:23 to play, the Eagles were held without a field goal for the next 14:37 until Louis Graham hit a 3-pointer — his only bucket of the game — with less than two minutes to play. UNCG ended the game with a dominating 32-5 run.
    “You are not going to win that many games when you go that long without scoring a basket,” Price said. “It’s hard to stay inspired when you are missing so many shots.”
    UNCG controlled the second half and confused GSU’s offense by switching between a 1-3-1 extended and a 2-3 match-up zone, but the Eagles also missed plenty of open looks. GSU shot 16 percent from the field and 9.1 percent (1 of 11) from 3-point land in the second half, while shooting a season-low 27.3 percent (15 of 55) for the game.
    The result was a 21-point loss, the Eagles’ largest margin of defeat at home since a 68-45 beating by The Citadel on Jan. 31, 1998. GSU, which lost for just the third time in the last 40 home games, has dropped its last three games. But it’s far too early to panic, Price said.
    “We need to continue to understand that we’ve won 37 of our last 40 games in this building and not act like it’s the end of the world,” he said.
    The Spartans (6-6, 3-1) made a concerted effort to take Graham out of the game, double-teaming the junior forward most of the afternoon. The plan worked as Graham was held to eight points, five on free throws.
    UNCG wasn’t as successful with containing Gennie, who finished with a team-high 17 points. Dwayne Foreman (10) was the only other Eagle to reach double figures.
    Spartan junior forward Kyle Hines – arguably the best player in the league – racked up a game-high 20 points, reaching double figures in scoring for the school-record 33rd straight time. He also grabbed a game-high 13 boards for his 27th career double-double, which tied a UNCG record.
    Ricky Hickman (18) and Mikko Koivisto (16) also posted double figures for the Spartans, who won their fourth straight. UNCG has won six of its last eight after an 0-4 start.
    “This is a good win for us as it is whenever you win on the road in the conference,” Spartan coach Mike Dement said. “They missed shots and it just snowballed on them. It has happened to us a couple of times this year. You miss a few, then another and another — and you can see the look on their faces. We’ve been there. Those are shots that will fall for those guys – Foreman and Gennie in particular.”
    Price thought the Eagles were lethargic after their recent five-day Christmas break. He anticipated the layoff would affect GSU in first half, but he never imagined the lull would continue after the break and cost the Eagles the game.
    Georgia Southern will look to regroup when it hosts non-conference foe Pikeville on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. before resuming SoCon play on Jan. 6 against Furman at Hanner Fieldhouse.

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

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