By MATT YOGUS
It’s good to be home.
The Georgia Southern Eagles played 10 of their first 12 games of the season on the road — most recently a six-game stretch that ended with a 58-56 heartbreaker at Charleston — and finally got their first Southern Conference victory in a 52-50 win over visiting Western Carolina on Monday in Hanner Fieldhouse.
MiMi DuBose continued dominating the GSU offense, scoring a game-high 20 points and closing out the final 1 minute, 30 seconds by connecting on all five free throws.
It was the Eagles’ third time in four games with a one-possession finish.
"I felt a little bit of pressure," said DuBose, who made all of her 11 free-throw attempts in the game, "but we’ve been in these kinds of situations all year. I think (a two-point loss) at George Mason and the Charleston game really helped prepare us for tonight. We knew one day those games would pay off with a ‘W,’ and we’re excited. We kind of feel like we haven’t even played a home game, it’s been so long."
Western Carolina (4-9, 2-2 SoCon) made it a two-point game with 0.06 seconds left with a 3-pointer by Makensey Campbell, but it was just a matter of inbounding the ball for the Eagles (2-11, 1-3), as first-year coach Chris Vozab recorded her first win in Hanner.
Senior Meredyth Frye had nine points and five assists in her 100th game at GSU.
"To be here for these last four years and gone through what we’ve gone through, it can only get better from here," said Frye. "We got this first one in conference – coach Vozab’s first conference win – and we’re excited for the rest of the season."
Georgia Southern trailed, 28-27, at halftime, but exploded out of the gate in the second half on a 14-2 run that included a pair of 3s by Anna Claire Knight.
Western shot just 1 of 8 from the floor in the stretch, and the Eagles out-rebounded the Lady Catamounts, 10-3.
WCU scored only once in the first 8 minutes of the second half, after Vozab challenged the Eagles to up the intensity at the break.
"We talked about, ‘That’s what we do. We make those effort plays, and we can’t do it 50 percent of the time. If we make them 100 percent of the time, we’ll get the results we want.’ I think our kids bought into that and came out with a lot of energy," Vozab said.
Aishya Wofford helped GSU draw even with WCU in the rebounding column, pulling down 11 of the Eagles’ 36 boards.
"She’s always had the athleticism to grab boards out of her area, but we’ve been working with her to have more confidence on the offensive end," Vozab said about Wofford. "Every game, she’s gotten a little bit better, a little bit more comfortable, and it’s been fun to watch her grow."
The Eagles trailed most of the first half, but never fell behind by more than four.
Wofford tied the game at 27-27 late in the period when Frye threw a bullet to her, as she was streaking to the basket, for an easy two. Wofford converted a three-point play after being fouled on the layup by WCU’s Alex Abraham.
The Catamounts took a 28-27 lead into the locker room when Janae’ McKinney made one of two free throws at the end of the half.
McKinney scored 10 points off the bench to lead all WCU scorers.
Western was just 2 of 6 from the line in the first half, and finished the game under 50 percent, making just 9 of 19 attempts. The Eagles were 16 of 19 from the line.
Frye and Knight drilled early 3s on GSU’s first two shots of the game for an early 6-2 lead, but went just 6 of 26 (23 percent) from the floor the rest of the half.
DuBose scored 12 of GSU’s 27 first-half points.
The Eagles return to conference play on Wednesday when they host Furman at 7 p.m.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.