UNC Greensboro has finally started to see the fruits of its efforts having an effect, and Georgia Southern is hoping for similar results against the Spartans.
The Eagles (4-15, 0-6 Southern Conference) will face UNCG (2-15, 2-5) today at 7 p.m. in Greensboro, N.C., and after running the Atlantic Coast Conference gauntlet and losing the first 15 games of the season, the Spartans have won two in a row.
“With that schedule, they’ve played the entire ACC,” said GSU coach Charlton Young. “I’ve said this before, but if I had to give my vote to somebody for coach of the year, it would be [UNCG coach] Mike Dement just because with the schedule he’s played, he’s still got those guys going hard. I watched them against Wake Forest, and if you didn’t know their record, you’d have thought they were 9-2 or 10-1 the way they were playing. They’ve continued to battle, and they’ve put together two really good games.”
The Spartans won for the first time this season Thursday at Appalachian State, and knocked off Davidson, 77-69, on Monday.
The Eagles are coming off their sixth-straight loss, including the last two against Wofford and Furman, two the top three teams in the SoCon South Division.
“This road trip couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Young. “We just played two of the better teams in the league — the South Division is loaded — so I think it’s a good time for us to go on the road. It’s like a retreat. We can just be away, be together, watch a lot of film and continue to grow together as a team. We have to get that one game on this road trip to kind of springboard us into the last 12 games of the conference.”
Georgia Southern has spent the season working on eliminating turnovers, and though they still average 18.5 per game, the biggest problem has been getting shots to fall. Young expects the Spartans to capitalize on that.
“A lot of people zone us when we don’t shoot the ball well,” said the GSU coach. “When they’re in man-to-man we’re able to score, so a lot of teams are zoning us when we get going offensively.”
Confidence has been the key for GSU, and early adversity has proven on of the biggest obstacles for the struggling Eagles.
“When you lose those games, that’s what happens to young players,” said Young. “Our freshmen are talented and some of them can play right now, but a few of them really shouldn’t be playing. They probably should be redshirting or sitting on the sideline watching, but they’re learning on the job, and the bad part of learning on the job is when you make mistakes, they effect the game tremendously.”
The Eagles are led in scoring by junior point guard Ben Drayton, who averages 15.2 points per game, and freshman Eric Ferguson, who averages 13.9.
Young feels the team’s offensive success hinges on senior forward Rory Spencer, a junior-college transfer who scores 11.7 points per game.
Greensboro’s Aloysius Henry leads the Spartans with 10.9 points per contest.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-4908.