If the Georgia Southern Eagles are going to have any momentum heading into next week’s Southern Conference tournament, it will have to happen tonight.
The Eagles narrowly missed putting together back-to-back wins for the first time since beating Carver Bible College and Reinhardt College back-to-back in November when UNC Greensboro escaped with a 57-56 win Thursday at Hanner Fieldhouse.
The Eagles (5-25, 1-16 SoCon) will face Elon to close out the regular season today at 7:30 p.m. at Hanner.
The UNC Greensboro was the first opportunity the Eagles have had this season to close out a game with a late, slim lead, and they learned a valuable lesson.
“When you’ve got a team down on the mat, you’ve got to throw a knockout punch,” said GSU coach Charlton Young after Thursday’s loss. “We had several opportunities to push that lead to 20, and when you let teams just hang around, hang around, hand around, you find yourselves in trouble. We got ourselves into real hot water [Thursday].”
With both teams pressing in the final minute, the results were opposite. Greensboro turned its full-court pressure into GSU turnovers, and the Spartans broke GSU’s press for easy buckets.
“We’re going to go break down the film and impress on them that we panicked,” Young said. “We walked around, we didn’t get to spots quick enough, we didn’t look at long release, we didn’t look at the middle. We didn’t look up the floor at all, and they were wide open. I don’t quite understand that, because that’s something we work on every day in practice.”
The Eagles also missed nine of their 19 free-throw attempts in the contest.
“We did not handle it well,” Young added. “Maybe we needed a game like that before the tournament. I’m disappointed, but I’m not going to let these guys lay it down and put their head down and cry. We needed that game. We needed to be on a three-game streak, but we put ourselves in this situation, so now, it’s got to be two out of three.”
Elon (12-16, 6-11) fell victim to Georgia Southern on senior night in 2010, falling 98-88 in Hanner, and enters tonight’s game winners of two out of the last three after dropping five straight conference matchups.
The Phoenix defeated GSU 84-62 on Jan. 22 in Elon, N.C.
Rory Spencer, the Eagles’ lone senior, will be recognized before tonight’s game.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.