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Mike into starting lineup


Forward Sam Mike has started each of the last three games for Georgia Southern.

The Eagles have won two of them — the third was a last minute loss to Furman on the road — but more importantly, Mike’s starting role has allowed the Eagles to "get big."

The new-look starting lineup, which features Mike and Kameron Dunnican playing down low and the team’s leading scorer, Eric Ferguson, moving to the small forward position, will be on display today when GSU hosts Appalachian State at 7 p.m. in Hanner Fieldhouse.

"I’m proud of Sam Mike and Kam Dunnican. Their emergence has given us a chance to win this thing, to play bigger and rebound the ball," GSU coach Charlton Young said. "I like being big. Before, our bigs weren’t quite there, so we had to play Eric at (the low post). Those two guys let us put Eric at the small forward spot, and it really makes us long and active defensively."

With his previously limited role, Mike has averaged less than eight minutes per game this season, but it has been effort that put him in the starting five.

"He’s earned it," Young said. "He’s workman-like, he plays hard, he pays attention to detail. Every little thing out there on the floor that you’re supposed to do, he does it."

Effort has been a huge point of emphasis for Young, whose Eagles (10-13, 4-6 Southern Confrerence) have wins over the two top teams in the league, Charleston and Davidson, but haven’t won more than two games in a row.

Against Appalachian State (9-12, 5-5) in Boone, N.C., on Jan. 24, the Eagles fell behind by as many as 17 points before a furious comeback that forced overtime, only to lose on a 3-pointer by ASU’s Chris Burgess.

"The biggest thing is, we’ve got to play guys who are going to compete," Young said. "Since the second half against App State, I felt like every minute that we’ve played, we’ve played hard. We might not have played well, we might not have made shots and put the ball in the basket, but we’ve competed and played hard. That’s what we learned at the App State game."

Two games later, when GSU hosted Chattanooga, the led by as many as 21, but needed a late 3 by Ferguson to hold off the Mocs for a two-point win.

"It was like, ‘Oh no, not again.’ And we started playing not to lose instead of playing to win," Young said. "That is directly correlated to the previous week when we lost two barn burners."

All of the close calls and narrow misses during the past few weeks have left GSU confident — but not overly so — in conference games.

"That’s good and bad, because we go into lulls here and there offensively," Young said. "We become kind of passive, so we’re going to have to press and do some things aggressively when that happens. But we’re never out of a game. We can always strike and make a run, and that’s a valuable attribute to have."

The game against ASU will be the Eagles’ Military Appreciation Day game. Georgia Southern will recognize members of the military and GSU’s ROTC program.


Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.