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GSU faces Duke tonight on ESPN2

Eagles blast UC Davis 116-73

    DURHAM, N.C. – Bring on Duke.
    Led by senior guard Donte Gennie, Georgia Southern used a balanced offensive attack to roll past UC Davis in a 116-73 victory in the opening round of the College Basketball Experience Classic at Cameron Indoor Stadium Sunday night. With the win, the Eagles (1-0) earned a date with Duke tonight at 7 p.m. The game will be televised by ESPN2.
    The Eagles’ 116 points are believed to be the most scored by anyone other than the Blue Devils in Cameron Indoor. It was also the most points by GSU in 14 years, dating back to the Eagles’ 119-91 win over Centenary on Jan. 16, 1992.
    “I’m thrilled with our effort,” GSU coach Jeff Price said. “I thought we played extremely hard. In your first game, you just never know what your team is going to look like, so I was pretty pleasantly surprised. We shot the ball well early in the game, and I thought that broke their spirit a little bit.”
    Five Eagles reached double figures and 12 different players scored. Gennie’s 26-points were a career and game-high, and he also nailed a career-high five 3-pointers. Gennie has reached double figures in 11 consecutive games.
    “Coaches have been preaching to me all week just shoot without thinking about it, so I just came out tonight and the ball was going in,” he said.
    Junior forward Louis Graham added 20 points, a game-high 11 rebounds and five blocked shots. He now has 112 career blocks, which ties the school record set by Kashien Latham (1998-02).
    Dwayne Foreman also turned in a noteworthy performance as the junior guard recorded career-highs in assists (13) and rebounds (8) and scored 15 points. Foreman’s 13 assists are the fifth most in school history.
    Jimmy Tobias added 14 points, while true freshman Antoine Johnson had 11 points, four steals and three assists in his collegiate debut.
    Georgia Southern pulled away early thanks to a 15-2 first-half run highlighted by back-to-back 3-pointers by Gennie, a Matt Fields layup and a Foreman 3 to give the Eagles a 39-23 edge. GSU’s advantage swelled to as many as 19 points in the first 20 minutes, and the Eagles led 54-38 at the break.
    Georgia Southern’s largest lead was 43, but by the time UC Davis trailed by 30 with nine minutes to play, the Cameron Crazies were begging the referees for a running clock.
    “You know it’s a good idea,” the undergraduates chanted to the men in stripes, who couldn’t help but chuckle.
    Georgia Southern’s game plan centered on guarding the 3-point line, and the Eagles did just that, holding the Aggies to 6-for-23 shooting along the perimeter.
    With Sunday’s season-opening win behind them, the Eagles will turn their attention toward 11th-ranked Duke.    
    “It’s going to be a great experience for us,” Price said. “We want to come in with the mindset that we are going to play as well as we can and hopefully make a good showing for Georgia Southern. You never know what can happen, and we are going to come in and play confident. For us and our program it might be a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and hopefully we’ll take advantage of it.”
    The Eagles played at Texas Tech last year, but nothing rivals playing Duke in Cameron Indoor, Graham and Gennie said.
    “It’ll be one of those games you can tell your kids, ‘I played in Cameron Indoor Stadium against Coach K,’” Graham said. “To come into this type of environment and play is going to test our will. We are looking forward to the chance to see what this team is made of. I really think we are going to step up to the plate and take care of business.”
    How will the Eagles prepare for such a challenge?
    “The biggest key in the game outside of executing and doing things is just to keep our poise,” Price said. “If you can stay together in this environment, keep your poise and not let them get to you too much, you might have a chance to hang in there. I think more important than anything, we are just going to have to find a way to keep ourselves together.”
    
    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.

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