As if hosting the defending Southern Conference champion wasn’t enough to be excited about, the Georgia Southern Eagles are just glad to have their lineup back.
“To be honest, we’re more excited just having all of our available players for a conference game,” said GSU coach Charlton Young, whose Eagles play host to the Wofford Terriers today at 7 p.m. in Hanner Fieldhouse. “We haven’t played a conference game yet where we’ve had all our players. We played The Citadel and Charleston without Rory [Spencer] and Cam [Baskerville]. We played Western Carolina without Cam, and Eric [Ferguson] had a sprained foot. Then we play App State with Cam coming off a stomach virus and Eric is out because of the foot. We’re excited, because we think we’ll have everybody.”
The Eagles (4-13, 0-4 SoCon) have pieced things together, with junior point guard Ben Drayton (15.2 points per game) and freshman Eric Ferguson (14.8) leading the offense.
Georgia Southern plays five freshman and a sophomore walkon in the nine-man rotation, and have been plagued by turnovers (18.9 per game).
Wofford (6-9, 3-1), on the other hand, enters the game with 10 juniors and seniors on the roster, who have the experience of winning the SoCon tournament and playing in the NCAA Tournament.
The Terriers are led by Noah Dahlman, a senior, 6-foot-6 forward who does most of his scoring in the paint. He has averaged over 16 points per game in each of the last three seasons, and enters Hanner averaging 19.2.
“I think the kid is the best layup-maker in the country,” Young said. “He does a good job of laying the ball up with quick moves to the basket. We’ve got to spread the floor and keep him off the deep block and not give him angles.”
The Eagles want to combat Wofford’s meticulous style with a fast-paced game, but the already-shallow GSU roster, combined with injuries and the scholarships lost due to NCAA sanctions before Young took over, have forced them to slow things down a bit.
“The way we need to play to be successful taxes our legs, but that’s the system that we recruited to,” said Young. “We play better when we’re getting up and down – pressing and running. We have to play a little differently until we get bodies back, scholarships back and players back.”
Wofford has dropped three of their last four, splitting conference games with a loss to Charleston and a win over The Citadel.
The Eagles fell in back-to-back SoCon games and have lost six of the last seven.
At Hanner Fieldhouse, the Eagles are 4-3, with the last win coming in overtime against Georgia State on Dec. 22.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.