Ask any Southern Conference basketball player which league schools have the best home-court advantage and their answer will likely include the College of Charleston.
Similar to Georgia Southern’s Hanner Fieldhouse, John Kresse Arena – a packed yet cozy venue in the heart of the historic city – is widely regarded as one of the toughest places to play in the conference. With seating that hugs the court, fans are a mere arm’s length away from the action, perhaps part of the reason why opponents have never fared well in the old gym.
Everybody except Georgia Southern, that is.
The Eagles (9-8, 2-4) have made themselves at home in the Cougars’ den, having escaped with three wins (2002, ‘04, ’06), the second-most victories by any team in the nation. Only Davison has more wins (four) on Charleston’s home floor. The Eagles also hung 91 points on the Cougars in Charleston last year — the most ever by an opponent on the Cougars’ home floor — and have won five of the last six meetings.
Georgia Southern coach Jeff Price said it’s imperative the Eagles keep that in mind tonight when they conclude a three-game road jaunt at Charleston (7 p.m., CSS).
“We need to understand we have had success on their court and play with confidence,” Price said.
Confidence is something the Eagles have talked about a lot lately after dropping two in a row and their last six road games. Most recently, GSU fell at The Citadel in a 74-69 overtime defeat on Saturday.
The Eagles will have to rebound quickly to knock off one of the SoCon’s hottest teams. Led by first-year coach Bobby Cremins, the Cougars (11-7, 4-2) have won eight of their last nine, including a 12-point victory over Furman Saturday.
“I don’t think there’s any question they are the most talented team in the league from an individual standpoint,” Price said.
SoCon player of the year candidate Dontaye Draper leads CofC’s attack, averaging 16.3 points (sixth in the league), 1.83 steals (fourth) and 4.89 assists (fifth) a game.
“We’ve got to try to control Draper,” Price said. “Everything runs through him. He’s probably the best player in the league.”
If the Eagles plan on picking up the program’s fourth win at Charleston, they’ll have to stay out of foul trouble and improve from the free-throw line. In the last two games, Georgia Southern’s opponents have been to the line a combined 45 more times than the Eagles. Georgia Southern is hitting a league-worst 57.7 percent of its free throws.
“It’s inexcusable to shoot free throws like that,” Price said. “On the road you have to keep the home team away from the line, hit your free throws and we are not doing that.”
Women host Western Carolina
Junior guard Tiffany Brown will be back in action tonight for the Georgia Southern women, who host Western Carolina in a 7 p.m. game at Hanner Fieldhouse.
The Eagles (7-10, 2-4), looking to halt their three-game losing streak, will be up against a Catamount team (10-7, 4-2) fresh off an eight-point victory over Chattanooga, the second-best team in the league.
Brown, the team’s leading scorer, will be a welcomed addition after missing Saturday’s game because of a suspension. Juniors Shawnda Atwood and Christa Waterman, who were also out Saturday, are likely to miss the game with injuries.
Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.