Georgia Southern hasn’t had much time to work out the growing pains.
With only two upper classmen — senior Rory Spencer and junior Ben Drayton — along with seven freshmen taking the court, the early weaknesses have been in the fundamentals.
"We were working on defense," said freshman wing guard Eric Ferguson. "That’s our pride and joy, and we’ve got to continue to work on it. [In Thursday’s 101-84 win over Reinhardt] we were able to close out a game, and that’s been our problem."
Despite their size advantage against the NAIA squad, the Eagles (2-1) took only a slim margin in rebounds with a 35-34 edge.
"We’ve got to rebound," Ferguson added. "The teams that we’ll play are bigger than us, so we have to pride ourselves on rebounding."
One such team is the Big east’s South Florida, which the Eagles will face today at 2 p.m in Tampa, Fla.
Second-year head coach, who was ejected from Thursday’s game, will not be allowed to coach against USF by Southern Conference rule. Assistant coach Steve Smith will take the reigns.
"[Young] will be in practice the same way and we’ll do the same routine. coming into Sunday," Smith said. "I’ll probably do most of the talking and the walkthrough and everything like that. I’ll do the pregame speech because he won’t be allowed in the building. We’ll prepare just like he’s coaching the team, because we’re a team anyway. a lot of what he’s saying we’re just echoing."
In other words, the playbook won’t change.
"We won’t play a different style of basketball," Smith laughed. "I can guarantee that."
Drayton and freshman guard Jelani Hewitt combined for 33 points in the win against Reinhardt, which was the first time GSU has been able to put a game out of reach early in the second half.
"I think we took a big step forward," Drayton said about the Reinhardt win. "We weren’t satisfied at all with the Carver Bible game. In the locker room it really felt like a loss. After the game we thought we couldn’t close them out. We let them back in the game."
Still, there’s planty of room for improvement.
"We didn’t quite reach some of the goals we set for ourselves defensively — field-goal percentage, scoring — so we’re going to continue to work on that until we go down to South Florida," Smioth said after the win.
With few veterans and a lot of inexperience, Drayton feels like the freshmen are coming along early in the season.
"They’re coming along pretty good," he said. "I just try to help them where I can, just trying to be a leader and making sure everybody’s doing what they’re supposed to do. They’re doing a great job on the spots and picking up on the system."
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.