The streak is over.
The Georgia Southern Eagles were a game away from setting the longest losing streak in program history and didn’t let it happen, cruising past The Citadel in the final minutes for a 65-53 win Saturday at Hanner Fieldhouse.
But the Eagles (5-24, 1-15 Southern Conference) weren’t thinking about losing streaks, anyway.
“We didn’t even know,” said second year GSU coach Charlton Young. “We were concerned about thinking we can win three games in a row. We sat down last night as a basketball family and we watched the story of the 1985 Villanova team. We talked about staying together and believing in ourselves, because at tournament time, anything can happen.”
The losing streak ended at 15 games, and GSU got its first SoCon win of the season.
With two games left before the 2011 Southern Conference tournament in Chattanooga, Tenn., the Eagles played the cleanest game of the season. Entering the contest averaging 18 turnovers per game, GSU turned it over only seven times.
“I think that just shows the maturity of our team,” said sophomore walkon Zuri James, who hit three 3[-pointers on the way to 13 points. “Over the course of the season, we’re growing up. That shows with seven turnovers.”
The Citadel (9-20, 5-11) gave the Eagles 16 points off of 12 turnovers, and the GSU defense held the Bulldogs to 38 percent shooting from the floor. A lot of that had to do with the team’s eight blocked shots. Four different players — Rory Spencer, Cameron Baskerville, Marvin Baynham and Eric Ferguson — each swatted two shots.
The paint was busy too. Spencer scored 13 points on 6 of 8 shooting, and the Eagles combined for 32 points in the paint.
In the early minutes, GSU exploded to a 21-7 lead. The Citadel clawed back in until the score was tied 30-30 with less than two seconds left.
Ferguson put in an alley-oop from under the basket as the first-half buzzer sounded to leave the Bulldogs trailing 32-30 at the break.
“We didn’t panic or get too excited,” said point guard Ben Drayton, who led GSU with 15 points. “They’re a good basketball team, and we knew they were going to go on a run. Basketball is a game of runs. We made ours and they made theirs, but we stayed composed.”
The Eagles quickly responded in the second half, building a double-digit lead with more strong post play. Spencer got things started off the block and James hit his third 3 in a 16-10 run that put GSU up 50-40 with 10:46 to go.
The Citadel was led by center Mike Groselle and guard Cameron Wells, who each scored 17 points.
Georgia Southern returns to Hanner Fieldhouse, where it is 5-8 on the season, to face UNC Greensboro Thursday at 7 p.m.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.