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Eagles crush App State in home finale
team crop
The Georgia Southern starters erupt on the bench after teammate James Holder hits a three-pointer in the closing seconds of the Eagles' 88-63 victory over Appalachian State at Hanner Fieldhouse Thursday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

     In the final game of the season played at Hanner Fieldhouse, the Georgia Southern Eagles looked like they still have plenty of basketball left to play.
    Appalachian State scored the first bucket of the game, but it was all Georgia Southern from there as the Eagles ripped off an 88-63 victory in one of their most dominating performances of the season.
    With the win, the Eagles improved to 13-13 on the season and 10-8 in Sun Belt Conference play. Georgia Southern continues to reside in fifth place in the Sun Belt and is looking like a team that few will want to play in the knockout tournament scheduled for New Orleans in two weeks.
    “I honestly didn’t expect that,” GSU coach Mark Byington said. “I was concerned about where our energy level was after playing so many games the last few days, but we got off to a great start and kept it up all night.”
    In a season where most of the Eagles’ big wins have stemmed from hot shooting, Thursday was no different. The Eagles’ lone upperclassman on Senior Night, Devince Boykins got the party started early, hitting his first two shots from beyond the arc.
    Boykins’ teammates quickly joined in, hitting seven of their first eight from long range and going 16-for-26 on the night.
    Before the Mountaineers (7-21, 5-12) could even get their bearings, the Eagles had raced out to a 34-8 lead midway through the first half.
    “It felt great,” Boykins said. “Coach told me to go make some memories. I know I’ll remember this one for a long time.”
    “We just played well as a team,” Byington said. “When guys were open, they were shooting and the ball was going in. When guys were covered, they were finding an open man and they hit the shot.”
    As hot as the Eagles’ shooting was, things were going just as well on the other end of the floor.
    Georgia Southern forced 17 turnovers and racked up 23 points off of those Mountaineer miscues.
    Appalachian State standout Frank Eaves was held to just 2-of-13 from the field and needed six free throws to compile a pedestrian 13-point effort. Ronshad Shabazz scored 29 against the Eagles in GSU’s 101-100 win in Boone last month, but was held to just three points Thursday.
    “They usually shoot it so well,” Byington said. “I wasn’t totally comfortable until there were about five minutes left, but we played very well on defense and (Appalachian) didn’t shoot as well as they can.”
    The Eagles’ points came in bunches, but the offense was evenly distributed.
    Tookie Brown led the way with 18 while Ike Smith scored 14 and Mike Hughes pitched in 12. In all, 11 different Eagles registered points and eight scored at least six on the night.
    After playing four games in the last eight days — and winning three of them — the Eagles now get a bit of rest.
    Georgia Southern will be idle over the weekend before concluding the regular season with visits to UL Monroe and UL Lafayette next week. The Eagles’ seeding for the upcoming Sun Belt tournament will be heavily influenced by the final week of conference play, with the 2-5 seeds seeming most likely.
    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.