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Lady Eagles earn another 1-pt win
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Georgia Southern's Jordi Cook, bottom, knifes through the lane past Western Carolina's Diamond Hunnicutt for a score in the second half Saturday at Hanner Fieldhouse.

Western Carolina senior guard Kaila’Shea Menendez attempted a 3-pointer as time expired, but her shot was an air ball, allowing Georgia Southern to escape with a 41-40 victory Saturday at Hanner Fieldhouse.

It was GSU’s fourth consecutive game, all Southern Conference contests, to be decided by one point. The Lady Eagles lost, 61-60, at Elon on Jan. 13. GSU fell, 55-54, at UNC Greensboro on Sunday. The Lady Eagles won, 35-34, at College of Charleston on Wednesday.

"It’s got to be a record," GSU head coach Rusty Cram said. "I’ve never done it before, I can tell you that. It’s a first for me. I don’t like it. I don’t like it if we’re on the losing end. As long as we’re on the winning end."

Western Carolina junior guard Janae’ McKinney cut the score to 41-40 on a layup with 3:19 to play.

With 7.7 seconds left, Western Carolina freshman guard Ali Lane was called for traveling during a baseline move, giving GSU possession.

With 5.9 seconds left, the Catamounts fouled GSU sophomore guard MiMi DuBose, but she missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free-throw opportunity. Western Carolina rebounded with 4.6 seconds to play, setting up Menendez for the game’s final shot.

A spirited crowd of 1,329 gathered for the seventh annual "Pack the House in Pink" game to raise breast cancer awareness. The Lady Eagles played the first game of the doubleheader. GSU’s men played College of Charleston in the nightcap.

GSU (7-12, 3-7) was led by guard Anna Claire Knight, a 5-foot-10 freshman from Trinity Christian School in Dublin. Knight started in her third consecutive game and scored a game-high nine points. Her six rebounds tied senior guard Janay Wilson for the team high.

"Anna Claire has been giving us quality minutes," Cram said. "She understands the game. She’s not playing like a freshman. She’s getting better every time she comes on that court. It’s going to be hard to take those minutes back from her.

"You don’t score 3,000 points in high school and not know what to do with the basketball. I don’t care who you are. So we know that’s the part of her ballgame that’s going to be a plus."

Knight scored nine points in her first game as a Lady Eagle in the season opener against Arizona. She has played in all 19 games, and came off the bench to score a career-high 10 points against Samford on Jan. 7.

"She’s going through that typical freshman learning curve right now where you’re having to learn team defense, trust your teammates, how to rebound, how to play a faster pace, quicker game. Those type of things," Cram said of Knight. "And when it all comes together, she’s going to be a pretty special player for us."

GSU sophomore guard Jordi Cook came off the bench and scored eight points, including two 3-pointers, to tie her season high for points. She scored eight points in the Lady Eagles’ previous game against College of Charleston.

Western Carolina (6-12, 1-8) was led by McKinney and sophomore forward Alex Abraham, who scored seven points apiece. The Catamounts, who are in last place in the SoCon, out-rebounded GSU, 37-27.

"We’ve got work to do, certainly," said Cram, whose Lady Eagles led by as many as 13 points in the first half before the Catamounts cut the score to 22-18 at halftime despite shooting 22.2 percent (6 of 27) from the field compared to GSU’s 45-percent shooting (9 of 20). "When we get a lead, especially late in the last three or four minutes, we’ve got to learn to put teams away.

"But you’ve got Anna Claire Knight, a freshman, Jordi Cook, a sophomore, Tashayla Steede, a freshman that’s out there. We play so many young kids. They’re having to learn how to get through it. They’ve been doing a great job for us. They’ve been put in some pretty tough situations."

GSU’s next game will be at 3 p.m. Saturday against College of Charleston at Hanner Fieldhouse.


Noell Barnidge can be reached at (912) 489-9408.