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Lady Eagles top Stetson, 62-46

    The Georgia Southern Lady Eagles opened their 2006 season with a 62-46 win over Stetson University (0-2) Sunday at Hanner Fieldhouse. GSU used a smothering defense in the second half, holding the Hatters to just 28 percent shooting on the night and registering nine steals.
    "I thought the defensive intensity was good, I thought it set the tone," said Southern head coach Rusty Cram, now in his 11th season. "Well pleased with the defensive side, but the offense still has some wrinkles to work out."
    Shawnda Atwood led the Eagles with 16 points, but GSU shot just 32 percent and turned the ball over 18 times. Youth on the court factored into some of the Eagles’ struggles.
    "At some points we had three and four freshman out on the court at the same time," said Cram. "That's pretty incredible when you think about it."
    The senior-less Eagles (1-0) held an eight point lead coming into the second half, but came out of the locker room with a half-court trap, forcing Stetson into some bad decisions and key miscues.
    After a Jamie Nesbit three for SU to make the score 37-29 at 11:41, the Eagles exploded for a 26-2 run over the next 6:33.
    Ashley Rivens hit back-to-back threes to push the lead to 49-31 and a Concella Henry follow-up at 5:18 pushed the Eagle lead to 22 at 53-31, the largest of the game. GSU held Stetson to just one field goal over a span of 9:13 in the second half.
    Freshman guard Carolyn Whitney got her first collegiate start for the Eagles, scoring six points with four rebounds, two assists and two steals.
    "I was so nervous," said Whitney. "But all my teammates kept me up and told me not to worry at all. I couldn't have asked for a better team."
    It looked as though the Eagles as a whole were nervous to start the game. Whitney scored the first GSU point with a free throw 2:43 into the contest, and Southern didn't register a field goal until the 16:12 mark.
    Southern took it's first lead on a Melson lay-up with 14:26 left in the first half and never trailed again, but shot just 26 percent in the first half.
    Junior Tiffany Brown was held to just 12 points on 38 percent shooting. The preseason all-Southern Conference selection struggled in her first game in over 11 months. Brown's offensive struggles mirrored that of the entire Eagle squad.
    "You're seeing a combination of young kids, kids that are now having to become go-to players instead of role players and it's just going to take time," said Cram.
    Georgia Southern returns to the court on Wednesday when the travel to Jacksonville State. Stetson returns home to face Bethune-Cookman on Thursday.

Wolves for the Whitney's
    The Wesleyan High School Lady Wolves basketball team made the trip from Norcross, Ga., in support of Carolyn and Elise Whitney, both true freshman for the Eagles. The twin sisters combined for 47 minutes, nine points, three assists and three rebounds. Elise hit a three-pointer when Carolyn drove the lane and kicked out to her sister to end the first half with a bang.
    "We were all so close," said Carolyn of the support from her former teammates. Wesleyan won the 2006 Class AA state Championship over rival Greater Atlanta Christian. "It meant show much to me that they would drive three-and-a-half hours just to see us play."

Everybody in
    Georgia Southern played all 12 members of the team that dressed for Sunday's game and 11 played in the first half.
    "To me the biggest game of the year is the first game," said Cram. "We just tried to get everybody in, even if it was just for three, or four minutes to try and work things out.

    Chad Bishop can be reached at (912)-489-9404.

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