Georgia Southern (3-4, 2-0) doubled its Southern Conference record from last season earning its first winning streak to open conference play since the 2005-2006 season with a 73-62 win against rival Appalachian State (4-3, 1-1) on its last home game of the year.
Appalachian State entered Statesboro leading the rivalry 22-16 but hold a 7-8 record against the Eagles in Hanner Field house. The Eagles extended the Mountaineers troubles tacking on another loss for them in Hanner.
Coach Charlton "C.Y." Young said that the spark the Eagles came out with was from the tough schedule the team has played thus far.
"Some people look at us and say ‘why does Georgia Southern schedule so hard early,’ but we aspire to be a high major program and we’re trying to convince these kids that even though we are in a mid-major league we want to compete on a national level," said Young.
"Now we see them get a callous on them, you can see that they are battle tested but also our league is much better than people think. App. State is huge and they are good…They’re a team that is going to be there at the end. That team will be there at the end…but with they’re size and their athleticism we were able to prepare for because of the schedule we have played," said Young.
The Eagles’ defense silenced Mountaineers offense early opening the game with a 15-3 run. Distancing themselves with six threes from behind the arc, the Eagles stretched their first half lead to 24 points and never let Appalachian State back in the game.
Senior Willie Powers lead the Eagles first half drive with 14 points and five assists in the first half, but it was sophomore Eric Ferguson who ignited the crowd with two big dunks late that pushed the Eagles to 45-25 halftime lead.
"We’re playing well and everything is clicking. We’re putting in the work and working hard and seeing the results of it right now," said Ferguson.
Appalachian State showed signs of life in the opening minutes of the second half, but the Eagles quickly trounced all hope for the Mountaineers.
The Eagles coasted the rest of the way and allowed Appalachian State to close the gap late in the game, but never lost control of the momentum.
"We have to continue to practice hard and stay focused. As long as we stick to our principles and do what we do, we will continue to win," said Ferguson.
Senior guard Ben Drayton lead the Eagles with 22 points and three assists and Ferguson missed a double-double by one rebound scoring 17 points and grabbing nine boards.
The Eagles won the game on the glass racking up 35 rebounds and perimeter play. Drayton lead the team with four treys as the team went 50.0% from three.
GSU moves to 3-1 at home and will search for its first road victory beginning with Eastern Kentucky Dec. 10. The team will be tested as the rest of the month belongs to four road games including Georgia State and Auburn.
"In order to win a championship you have to hold down your home court, which we have, and you have to win on the road…The way you win on the road is you don’t turn it over, you make free throws, you make the easy plays, and keep the crowd out of the games. We are in the process of learning, but that’s the thing about this group. Even though we’ve taken some knocks on the head, they have championship traits because every time you challenge them to fix something they respond. I think if we challenge them to win on the road they will respond," said Young.
GSU will return to Hanner Field house Jan. 2 to take on Brewton Parker at 7:30 p.m.