Following a week off as the fall semester wrapped up with finals, the Georgia Southern men’s basketball team had to shake off some rust, but was able to remain perfect at home.
Tookie Brown scored a game-high 32 points, Jake Allsmiller scored 19 more and Montae Glenn recorded his fourth double-double of the season as the Eagles overcame some early turnovers and a few small first half deficits to defeat Savannah State by a score of 102-91 Saturday evening at Hanner Fieldhouse.
“It was an exciting and stressful game,” GS coach Mark Byington said. “Savannah State presents a lot of challenges. We have different offensive firepower. We wanted to do enough defensively and we knew that if we could do that, the points would be there.”
The Eagles (7-2) were able to top the Tigers (3-8) at their own game. Savannah State is among the nation’s most frequent three-point shooting teams and gave Georgia Southern a scare last season with a hot first half from behind the arc.
This time around went better for the Eagles and — more importantly — resulted in another victory. Savannah State lofted up 26 shots from long range, but connected on just seven of them. Georgia Southern put up a staggering 36 3-pointers and hit on 12 of them. That, combined with an overall shooting percentage of 48.5 percent from the field was enough to outduel the rapid-firing Tigers.
“We knew it was going to be fast and hectic,” Allsmiller said. “They press and sprint. We didn’t even take the ball out after baskets when practicing for them. But we have veteran guys who can handle it.”
Much has been made of the Eagles’ experience as they return all five starters for a second consecutive season. The massive contributions by Brown, Allsmiller and Glenn note the importance of the experienced players, but it was the bench that received a lot of recognition after the game.
Due to a lingering ankle injury that kept Ike Smith out of action for a third straight game and the departure of Jared Hamilton from the team, plenty more minutes had to be filled.
“We know what we have with our starters,” Byington said. “What I really liked was what I saw from (B.J.) Gladden, Quan Jackson and David-Lee Jones. I see what they do in practice. Everyone wants more minutes. Tonight, they got the extra minutes and really helped us.”
Following a hot start for both sides, the lead shifted back and forth. Savannah State led by as much as three on two occasions, but a layup by Gladden at the 5:32 mark of the first half gave the Eagles the lead for good.
Georgia Southern slowly extended its advantage in the early minutes of the second half, eventually pressing its lead to double-digits. With the rest of the Tigers misfiring, Javaris Jenkins' 31-point, 12-of-17 shooting performance single-handedly kept Savannah State in the game and even got them back within four points midway through the half.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, Jenkins' do-it-all performance also included fouling and he — as well as any good chance for a Tiger comeback — exited the game in the stretch run.
The Eagles secured victories in each of their two home games over the last eight days, but now face a daunting road trip. Georgia Southern flies to Washington D.C. today ahead of a Tuesday game at George Mason. From there, the Eagles will head all the way out to the west coast to face Cal State-Bakersfield before returning east for trips to Kennesaw State and East Tennessee State.
"We're going to see a lot," Byington said. "We'll see some snow tomorrow and maybe some wildfires after that. We're also going to see a lot of good teams. Hopefully we come through these next four games healthy and prepared for conference play."