CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Forget the record.
Georgia Southern still has a chance to do something the program hasn’t been able to do since 2007 — win a game in the Southern Conference Tournament.
Though the Eagles (5-26, 1-17 SoCon) won only two Division I games and only one against conference competition this season, everybody’s in the same boat. Win or pack it up for the season.
Or, the "third season" if you ask GSU coach Charlton Young.
"We’ve been talking about the third season all year. We’re excited about being 0-0, having a clean slate," he said about the tournament. "Everybody in this tournament, they’re in the same situation we are – if you lose, you’re going home. That’s a good situation for us, because we’re a team that has nothing to lose. When you have nothing to lose, you’re dangerous. Some of the other teams in the tournament have a lot more pressure on them than we do, which can make us a tough out."
One such team is Appalachian State (15-14, 10-8), which faces the Eagles today at 4:30 p.m. in a first-round play-in game at Chattanooga’s McKenzie Arena.
"When we go out here Friday, we’re not trying to win the whole tournament. All we’re trying to do is beat App State," said Young. "That’s our focus. Beat App State. That way you take off the pressure the guys are worried about — winning it all, winning the tournament, going to the NCAA tournament — we make it simple. We say, ‘Hey, do you think we can beat App State?’ Everybody in our camp thinks we can."
After a combined 14-47 record in Young’s first two seasons, the Eagles have their eyes set on a win over ASU.
"Guys really want this in the worst way," said Young, "because it’s the only way to salvage our first two seasons."
Junior point guard Ben Drayton, who leads the Eagles on scoring (15.7 points per game) and assists (141) leads GSU in SoCon tournament appearances. This will be his third, and nobody else on the roster has played in the tournament more than once.
"He’s got to lead the way," Young said about Drayton. "We’ve been telling him that the whole second half of the season. He’s improved. I’m really proud of his development as a point guard and a decision maker. He could always score, but he needed to be able to make good decisions and manage the game. That’s probably more important than being able to score."
The Eagles faced the Mountaineers once this season, losing 79-51 in a game in which ASU held Georgia Southern to just 20 second-half points. Omar Carter drilled 5 of 8 3-points attempts in the Jan. 8 contest and led all scorers with 25 points. Appalachian State’s leading scorer, Donald Sims, added 19.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.