The Georgia Southern men’s basketball team won its fifth consecutive game and continued its strong charge through the final weeks of the regular season with an 81-66 victory over Little Rock Thursday evening at Hanner Fieldhouse.
“I’m proud of the effort,” GS coach Mark Byington said. “I think we played a very good defensive game, and that’s what feeds us. (Little Rock) scored on some loose balls and just kept fighting the entire time. It definitely didn’t feel like a 15-point win, but we’re glad to have it.”
Isaiah Crowley led the way for the Eagles (19-10, 11-5 Sun Belt) with 20 points. He was joined in double digit scoring by Tookie Brown (19), Montae Glenn (12) and Calvin Wishart (11).
Crowley’s final two points of the night may have been the loudest ones recorded at Hanner this season. With Georgia Southern firmly in control of the game, the Eagles took advantage of a fastbreak. Brown led the charge and put the ball in the air for Crawley, who got full rotation on a windmill dunk to press the late lead to 16 points and put the Trojans (10-18, 5-10) to bed early.
Georgia Southern had turned the ball over eight times in the first half, but gave it up just once in the final 20 minutes for a season low, allowing Byington to enjoy the theatrics.
“If that had gone off the back of the rim, maybe it’s a different story,” Byington said. “But we want our guys to have fun. This game is supposed to be fun, so if we’re taking care of the ball and playing well, plays like that are fun to see.”
The exclamation point on the Eagle win was also on the minds of players following the game.
“I think (Crawley) wanted me to pass it off the backboard to him,” Brown said. “I decided to just give it to him to make sure we got the points.”
The points weren’t hard to come by as the Eagles hit on 52.6 percent of their shots from the field to maintain their status as the highest scoring offense in the Sun Belt. Georgia Southern connected on just three of its 13 attempts from beyond the arc (all made by freshman Wishart) and had another shaky outing from the free throw line — shooting 18-of-29 from the charity stripe — but the consistent inside scoring and overall defense kept the Eagles leading comfortably throughout the night.
Glenn notched his sixth double-double of the season, pulling down 12 rebounds to go with his 11 points. Quan Jackson had a quieter night than usual on offense with just nine points, but he was active on the other end of the floor with four defensive rebounds and three steals.
Little Rock’s Rayjon Tucker led all scorers with 21 points and teammate Nikola Maric was hot on his heels with 18, but no other Trojan reached double-digits and the team’s 16 turnovers translated into 19 Eagle points to help the home side pull away.
At the end of the night, the top of the Sun Belt looked the same as it had before tipoffs around the league. Texas State topped Troy to remain in sole possession of the conference lead while Georgia State crushed Arkansas State to remain in a tie for second place with Georgia Southern.
The Eagles remain at home for the rest of the regular season and will welcome Arkansas State to Hanner on Saturday for a 5 p.m. tip. If the Eagles can win their final two games of the regular season, they will guarantee a triple-bye — awarded to the top two teams in the conference standings — that would pass them through to the semifinal round of the Sun Belt tournament in New Orleans.