This time of the year, it’s all about momentum.
The Georgia Southern Lady Eagles are coming off of the high of an upset over No. 1 seed Appalachian State on the road and the low of a home loss to Furman to close out the regular season.
So, which one has been the motivating factor this week in preparation for the 2011 Southern Conference Tournament?
"I think that’s the million-dollar question," said GSU coach Rusty Cram. "I’d have to say the loss to Furman, because that’s the most recent. I think they knew what was at stake. If they would have pulled that one off it would have been App and Furman at the end of the year, and they would have gone into the tournament much higher emotionally."
The coaches have worked hard to convince the Eagles (12-17) that everybody’s 0-0 when they face Western Carolina (8-21) today at 1 p.m. in the opening game of the tournament.
"We convinced them that it’s a new season to the point where we used our first-day practice plan," Cram said. "We pulled out the plan from back on October fifth, because it was a new season and we went through that practice schedule without them knowing it. We tried to put it in their minds that it’s a new season, and this is what you play all year for."
The loss to Furman placed GSU in the play-in round, putting another game in their way of the program’s first SoCon title since 1994.
"The problem that I foresee for us, being in the bottom half of the conference, in that play-in game, is that depth is what got us in that month anyway," said Cram. "We have to win four games."
The Eagles are led offensively by sophomore Meredyth Frye, who averages 11.5 points per game, and senior point guard Jamie Navarro, who shoots 40.6 percent from behind the 3-point line.
Navarro’s experience in the tournament is key for a team that has four under classmen averaging double-digit minutes.
"She knows what’s at stake up here," Cram said of Navarro. "There’s no question in my mind Jamie’s going to sell out and give us the best she can possibly play. I don’t doubt that for a minute — I just know her too well. She’s going to want to go out with some success. It’s been a frustrating senior year for her. I look for her to give us her best shot."
Freshman shooting guard MiMi DuBose, who missed eight of the last nine games due to injury after scoring 10.2 points per game through the first 19, returned for the season finale against Furman. She was rusty in her return, shooting 0 of 5 from the floor including 0 of 3 from behind the arc.
"She’s not going to be a fix-all for us by any stretch of the imagination, but we can play her limited minutes," said Cram. "She’s still playing through the pain process, and it’s going to take longer than what she needs to be 100 percent."
The winner of today’s game against Western Carolina will face No. 2 seed Samford Friday at 9 a.m.
Georgia Southern split with both WCU and Samford during the regular season, defeating both teams in Hanner Fieldhouse, and dropping the road games.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.