By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Eagles fly by Arkansas State
010418 BKC GSU HOOPS 02
Georgia Southern guard Tookie Brown, left, hits a fadeaway 3-pointer over Arkansas State's Rashad Lindsey as the shot clock expires during the second half Thursday. Brown and the Eagles caught fire early and ran away with an 80-49 victory over the Red Wolves as the Eagles played their first Sun Belt home game of the season. The Eagles return to Hanner on Saturday for a matchup against Little Rock.

    In its first two Sun Belt Conference games of the season, Georgia Southern dug itself a double-digit first half hole on both occasions, ultimately winning one game and dropping another.

The Eagles (11-5, 2-1 Sun Belt) weren’t in the mood for any such drama Thursday night at Hanner Fieldhouse. Georgia Southern led by as many as 22 in the first half and ran away with an 80-49 victory over Arkansas State.

“It was good to be back home and good to get a win,” GS coach Mark Byington said. “We got comfortable in the game quickly. We got out to a lead early, and what really allowed us to win was that we played good defense all night.”

Tookie Brown continued his stellar 2017-18 campaign and made another statement for consideration as Sun Belt Player of the Year with a 20-point performance. Fellow preseason All-Sun Belt pick Ike Smith spent nearly a month on the shelf with an injured ankle, but saw limited action at Troy and South Alabama last week grow into 7 points in 22 minutes of action against the Red Wolves (6-10, 1-2) on Thursday.

Montae Glenn added to his collection of double-doubles this season with 14 points and 10 boards.

“It feels good out there,” Glenn said. “A lot of us have been working hard for the last few years. We’ve also been learning to play together. We all know what to expect from each other and from ourselves out there.”

    A silver lining to Smith’s injury concern — especially now that he seems to be nearing full strength again — is that the steps taken to fill in for him have built depth with the team.

Brown, Glenn, Mike Hughes and Jake Allsmiller picked up some of the scoring slack in Smith’s absence, but the physical minutes on the floor were another hurdle to clear. Redshirt freshman Quan Jackson has taken advantage of the opportunity and — even with Smith back and contributing — seems to have worked his way into the nightly rotation. Jackson had another stellar effort against Arkansas State, scoring 14 while playing 25 minutes.

“Quan has grown up a lot,” Byington said. “I’m proud of his development and maturity. He had his opportunity. He was nervous at first, but he has become a defensive presence and a scoring punch.”

As far as the flow of the game went, there wasn’t much as the Eagles’ squad of half a dozen returning impact players easily outclassed an Arkansas State squad that lost eight players off of a mostly mediocre squad from last season.

A 3-pointer from Jackson 13 seconds into the game was the only lead change - if the breaking of a 0-0 tie is to be taken into account. Georgia Southern ripped off a 13-0 run that was capped off by an Allsmiller 3 just over halfway into the first half to give the Eagles a 31-9 lead and put the game mostly out of reach before the break.

A short spurt before the half got ASU within 12 points shortly before halftime, but the Eagles kept their foot on the gas. Georgia Southern led 44-26 at halftime and another 3 from Allsmiller with 16:24 to play marked the last time the Wolves were within 21 points of the Eagles.

The first weekend of Sun Belt play was odd, to say the least, as multiple upsets left the standings nowhere near the preseason predictions. At press time, only UL Lafayette had secured a 3-0 start to conference play while Georgia State needed a late rally to notch its first Sun Belt win and preseason favorite UT Arlington was in danger of falling to 0-3 in league play.

“These games are important,” Byington said of Thursday’s win and Saturday’s home game against Little Rock. “You need to win home games. It’s tough to win on the road, and that’s where five of our first seven conference games are. I’m proud of what our guys did tonight. Hopefully we keep playing like this and - when we have more home games later in the season - we have a great crowd that makes (Hanner) a tough place for people to come into.”