It’s been a roller coaster ride for the Georgia Southern Eagles through the first 10 games of the season.
The only real high came in the form of the program’s first-ever win over an Atlantic Coast Conference program – the Eagles beat Virginia Tech, 78-73, last week – and GSU (4-6) can even its record with a pair of wins, starting today, in the 2012 Continental Tires Vegas Classis in Las Vegas, Nev.
"We need to practice winning a championship," GSU coach Charlton Young said. "This is a tournament. We want to practice cutting down the nets, practice putting the trophy on our bus. Everything about us is about three games in March, and playing our best basketball in March."
It starts around the boards, where the Eagles were dominated in Monday’s 62-43 loss at Bradley, which out-rebounded GSU, 45-32.
"We’re deficient at rebounding the ball," Young said. "We’ve got a bunch of nice guys on the bus. It’s a process because we don’t have a lot of pounds on the bus, we’ve got long, lean guys. So when we run into a bunch of offensive linemen, that’s a problem. We’ve got to stay in the stance and deliver the first blow."
Still, Young is happy with the progress of the team throughout an early schedule which at one point was ranked the 16th toughest schedule out of 347 Division-I teams.
"Right now, we’re a good basketball team," Young said. "We’re not a championship-level team. People can say whatever they want about our record, but we’ve played a hellacious schedule. Valparaiso, Maryland, Charlotte — all those teams will be NCAA tournament teams. I’m proud of these kids and how they’ve battled, fought through adversity and gotten better by playing a big-time, Division-I schedule. These kids deserve credit for that. Not ridicule, credit."
Young views the Virginia Tech win as a sign of improvement, not "a fluke," he said.
"What people need to know about that is that we never trailed," he added. "Not even 2-1. I was disappointed that we didn’t spread (the lead) to 20, to be honest. It was a 16-point game with 6 minutes to play."
Senior forward Cameron Baskerville, Young’s first recruit when he took over the program in 2009, went 6 of 6 from the free-throw line to help ice the win.
"I’m so proud of him," Young said, "because he’s the first guy that we signed when we got the job to rebuild Georgia Southern basketball. When we took over, it was almost like starting this program from scratch. For him to be a big component of that, for him to be the guy that leads us to the first ACC win in the history of Georgia Southern, that’s huge."
The Eagles face Mississippi Valley State today at 3 p.m.
MVSU (0-7) played Bradley on Wednesday, losing 77-42. The Delta Devils have the most difficult schedule in the nation according to the Ratings Power Index, and appeared in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
"They have some championship residue in their program," Young said.
The Eagles will be back to work Sunday, facing either North Florida or Cal State Bakersfield to close out the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 89-9408.