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Charleston blocks Eagles comeback attempt
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    CHARLESTON, S.C. - With 6.4 seconds remaining in Monday night’s edition of another heated College of Charleston-Georgia Southern grudge match, Eagle junior Dwayne Foreman eyed the game-tying free throw.
    One second earlier, he was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer, and Foreman had calmly sunk his first two tries to pull GSU within one at 65-64. After a Charleston timeout, Foreman was back at the line, where his final shot bounced off the rim and into the hands of CofC’s Marcus Hammond. The Cougars held on from there, sending the Eagles back to Statesboro with a 67-64 loss, Georgia Southern’s third straight.
    Yes, Foreman’s free throw was crucial, but his teammates didn’t heap the blame solely on him.
    “Dwayne did not lose the game on one free throw,” said junior Louis Graham, who scored 14 points. “The game could have been lost in so many ways. Every time we come over here, it’s one of these type games — a two or three-point game.”
    After Hammond sunk a pair of free throws with 3.8 seconds to go, GSU got one final look — a 3 from Foreman at the buzzer, which Hammond blocked. With the loss, Southern dropped to 9-9 overall and 2-5 in the league. The Eagles have lost seven consecutive road games.
    “Right now we are a team scrambling for a conference win,” Foreman said. “We come into a hostile environment and let one of these games slip away from us again — not to take anything away from Charleston. They are a good team.”
    Led by first-year coach Bobby Cremins, Charleston (12-7, 5-2) picked up its ninth win in 10 games. The Cougars rallied from a 13-point first-half deficit, using a 17-5 run to take their largest lead of the game, a nine-point advantage after a Philip McCandies jumper with 7:19 remaining. But the Eagles weren’t done, responding with six unanswered points to pull within two.
    “I thought we showed great heart fighting back into the game and having a chance to win after we were down by nine,” Georgia Southern coach Jeff Price said. “In a place like this on the road, I thought it showed great heart and character to come back and have a chance to win the game.”
    Charleston big man Josh Jackson was 8-for-10 from the floor for a game-high 17, while guard Dontaye Draper added 14 and nine assists. Along with Graham, who was plagued by foul trouble, Foreman (16) and Jimmy Tobias (15) led the Eagle offense. Donte Gennie was held to seven, not reaching double figures for the first time in 14 games.
    “I feel really fortunate that we won,” Cremins said. “It was a really exciting game, and this team amazes me the way it continues to show a lot of heart. I’m really proud of these guys. We are fortunate to be playing at home right now because the crowd is really helping us. Any win you can get at home you’ve got to be grateful for it.”
    Georgia Southern controlled the game early, unleashing an 18-3 run midway through the first half for a 20-7 edge on a Dwayne Foreman 3, the last of four consecutive treys by the Eagles. But the College of Charleston roared back, putting up eight unanswered points before eventually pulling within one on a monstrous Jackson dunk, which brought the home crowd of 3,122 to its feet. Ken Ward answered at the buzzer, putting back a missed Forman 3 to stretch GSU’s lead to 30-27 at the break.    
    Charleston shot 53.6 percent from the floor in the second half to regain control, taking the lead for good on a Tony White, Jr. 3 at the 10:58 mark. Price said fatigue and a shallow bench hurt his team down the stretch.
    “I don’t think there’s any question late in this game when Louis Graham drops a rebound he never drops and Dwayne misses a free throw — I think all of that is due to fatigue,” he said. “We have to continue to search for play off our bench.”
    Matt Fields filled that void early in the year, but has been out since mid-December with a broken foot. He could be back as soon as next week, Price said. But in the meantime, the Eagles will look to rebound from their 0-3 road trip, which included close losses at Chattanooga and The Citadel.
    “We are kind of in disarray,” Graham said. “We go to The Citadel, they throw up a fluke shot that takes us into overtime and we loose. It’s kind of like: What can we do to get a win? As a team we’ve just got to stick together. It was a tough loss but the season is not over. We’ve got a lot more games to play.”
    Georgia Southern begins a week-long break today and resumes play next Tuesday, hosting South Division leader Davidson for a 7:30 p.m. game.
    “The biggest thing to our team is keeping our head up and not getting down on ourselves,” Price said. “This is an awfully good 2-5 team that has had four games on the road that went down to the last two possessions. People need to stay with this team. Anybody that gets down on our team is making a mistake because this is a team that is going to continue to get better.
    “Our guys played hard. This is a big rival game and if our guys can find this intensity every game, we could have won a couple of those. We are going to get better, we are going to be OK.”

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.