On a night when the Georgia Southern Lady Eagles had two starters out with injury, somebody had to step in and fill the void.
Wofford’s 30 turnovers certainly helped, but the Eagles got double digit minutes out of four different freshmen and Logan Youngblood scored 10 points in her first-career start as GSU ran away from the Lady Terriers 57-41 Monday at Hanner Fieldhouse.
MiMi DuBose and Brianna Scott were hurt during the team’s recent two-game road trip, so GSU coach Rusty Cram and his assistants decided they were going to rotate mass subs to keep all the legs fresh.
"I’m trying to figure out how in the world I can somehow doctor us to keep us in the ballgame," said Cram, "so I gave [the freshmen] a challenge. I said, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do — we’re going to put you in a 2-3 zone, we’re going to trap in the corners, trap in the wings and I want you to sell out. This is your chance to go out there and sell me on why you should be playing."
True freshman forward Danielle Spencer got her first start, playing a career-high 24 minutes and hitting 4 of 4 foul shots on the way to six points.
"Danielle was taking two steps forward and one step back, and now maybe she’s taking three steps forward and one step back," Cram said about the freshman. "She’s still getting quality minutes, and all that’s going to do is get her better."
Wofford (6-12, 2-8 Southern Conference) struck first when a 3-pointer by Mariah Masalin put the Terriers ahead early, but the Eagles (9-12, 6-6) responded with a 16-0 scoring run. The run began when point guard Jamie Navarro buried a 3 to knot the score, and was capped off when freshman guard Lacie Dowling hit her first career college basket, a jumper that put GSU ahead 16-3 with 10:16 remaining in the first half.
"I wasn’t expecting it," said Dowling, "but it felt really good to contribute on a night when everybody’s hurt and injured."
Dowling didn’t stop there. She went 2 for 2 from the charity stripe and buried 2 of 3 3-point attempts on the way to 10 points.
Georgia Southern led 28-17 at halftime, but with 17:33 to go in the game, Wofford’s April Moorehouse hit a pair of free throws to cut the score to 28-22.
Dowling answered with back-to-back 3s that returned the GSU lead to 12.
Fortunately, she was too focused to worry about her first collegiate 3.
"If I would have thought about it," said Dowling, "I don’t think I would have made it."
Spencer and GSU freshman Aishya Wofford had the job of guarding Mahagony Williams, a senior who entered the game averaging 10.9 points per game for the Terriers, in the post. Williams scored only two points in the first half and five in the second.
"My hat’s off to them," said Cram. "You play two freshmen in the post in Aishya and Danielle tonight, and I think they did a magnificent job on Mahagony Williams. She had seven points and she’s the leading scorer on the team. She got frustrated, and we made her play a game she didn’t want to play."
Krista Tate, who started for the Eagles but left the game in the second half with an injury, led GSU with five steals. Navarro and Meredyth Frye each added four.
Frye led all scorers with 12 points. Navarro added 11 to go along with Youngblood’s and Dowling’s 10 points each.
Wofford was led by Rachel Brittenham, who scored nine points while shooting 3 for 7 from 3-point range.
Georgia Southern has nearly two weeks to rest up as it prepares for UNC Greensboro Feb. 5 at 5 p.m. in Hanner.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.