The Georgia Southern basketball team may want to eat some black eyed peas, as the New Year didn’t get off to a very good start. The Eagles opened Sun Belt conference play Friday at Hanner Fieldhouse against South Alabama, and nothing seemed to go right for the Eagles as they fell 88-59.
The Eagles came into the game averaging over 80 points per game, and limiting their opponents to 67 points per contest. Friday night the Eagles decided to live and die from behind the arc, and things didn’t go well. Georgia Southern was just 10-37 from behind the arc for just 26%. Meanwhile the Jaguars got plenty of open looks and were 10-19 from deep, and shot over 57% from the field in the game.
“Give credit to South Alabama as they are a quality program,” said Eagle head coach Brian Burg. “We really couldn’t get into a flow because we were taking it out of the net the entire night. We have to make sure we get some stops on the defensive end in order to give our offense a chance.”
The Eagles found themselves in a hole early on as a 14-2 run by the Jaguars gave South Alabama a 26-11 lead. The Eagles managed to fight back, a breakaway dunk by Zack Bryant, followed by a layup by Cam Bryant cut the South Alabama lead to 36-31. The Jaguars then closed the half outscoring the Eagles 13-0 to take a 49-31 halftime lead.
The second half was much of the same. The Eagles shooting woes continued as they shot 39% from the field, and only 27% from behind the three-point line. The Eagles had trouble throughout the game with the South Alabama zone defense that forced the Eagles into settling for jump shots. Georgia Southern ended up 7-16 from the free throw line, compared to the Jags who went 22-28.
“We really need to find our identity on the defensive end of the floor,” said Burg. “They were able to play downhill, and get into the paint. We don’t want to allow our opponents to get to the middle, and we didn’t do a very good job of that tonight. Give then some credit as Michael Flowers (26 points) had a great game, and they came in with a great game plan.”
The good news for the Eagles is they can put this game behind them quickly as they two teams meet again Saturday at 3:00 at Hanner Fieldhouse. The Sun Belt Conference is having teams play back-to-back this year on Friday and Saturday.
”We faced adversity tonight, and didn’t handle it very well,” said Burg. “We have a quick turnaround, so we will look at the film tonight and try and figure out technically what we can do differently. We have to compete for 40 minutes, and again that starts on the defensive end.”
The Eagles were led in scoring by Elijah McCadden with 14 points, and Zack Bryant with 12. The Jaguars were led by Flowers with 26, while John Pettway added 17 points. The Eagles and Jaguars play again Saturday at 3:00