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Davidson dampens Lady Eagles' Senior Night
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Georgia Southern’s Jessica Geiger (34) drives past Davidson’s Ashley Lax (24) and Mercedes Robinson (21) for an easy two Thursday night at Hanner. Geiger’s score was an anomaly, as GSU shot 31.1 percent and fell 66-56 in their final home game of the season. - photo by CHAD BISHOP/staff
    The Georgia Southern women had designated Thursday as the night they’d halt their two-game losing skid, regain some crucial late-season momentum and lock up the Southern Conference’s No. 3 seed — all while honoring their seniors, who were playing in Hanner Fieldhouse for the final time.
    Things didn’t go as planned.
    Instead, a mountain of frustration ensued for the Eagles who — for the third-straight game — showed little resemblance of the team they were in mid-February when they’d won 11 of 12. Georgia Southern’s offense never got on track, and Davidson cruised out of town with a 66-53 win ± it’s 10th-straight over the Eagles.
    “It’s frustrating,” GSU coach Rusty Cram said. “Somehow we’ve lost confidence in ourselves and our ability to score. As a coaching staff we don’t know where it’s come from. Our confidence is obviously waning. We don’t have any leaders right now that are stepping up other than (Ashley) Melson. I think she’s been our most consistent player, but outside of that we are playing leaderless right now. Nobody will step up and stop the train so we can turn this thing around.”
    After a post-Christmas run helped the Eagles soar into second place in the league standings, GSU lost by a combined 48 points to Western Carolina last Saturday and Chattanooga on Monday. Cram thinks the magnitude of those defeats have left his team shell-shocked.
    A win Thursday would have given the Eagles (16-12, 12-5) the No. 3 seed in next week’s SoCon tournament in Charleston, S.C., and GSU could still lock up the third seed if it wins its regular season finale at Appalachian State Saturday and Davidson losses to the College of Charleston. If not, Georgia Southern will go in as the fourth seed, a fate that means playing on the same side of the bracket as top-seeded Chattanooga, which finished the regular season Thursday with a perfect 18-0 SoCon record.
    “I can’t think of a worse-case scenario (than) us going into the tournament on a four-game losing streak after winning 11 of 12,” Cram said. “That’s just an absolute nightmare, but it doesn’t seem to be fazing us right now. Nobody wants to stop it, and that’s what’s disappointing to me. We’ve got to figure out how.”
    Cram shook up his starting lineup to include all four seniors, but the Eagles came out flat. Davidson immediately took control, snapping its recent habit of falling behind early in road games. While GSU struggled to find the basket, the Wildcats raced to an 11-2 lead and held the Eagles without a field goal for the first 4:44.
    Despite major substitutions, GSU couldn’t find any sort of rhythm offensively, missing 19 of its first 23 tries. The Eagles fell into a 16-point hole late in the first half before suddenly awakening and putting up 11 unanswered points to cut their deficit to five less than two minutes before the break. But the Wildcats countered with the last two baskets of the period to take a 36-26 lead into the locker room.
    GSU pulled within seven early in the second half, but then went 8:43 without a field goal while the Wildcats (18-10, 12-5) sank eight consecutive free throws. The Eagles pulled within seven with less than five minutes to go, but Davidson maintained its poise and calmly sank baskets to keep GSU at bay.
    Georgia Southern, which fell to 10-2 at home this year, finished the night 19-for-61 (31.1 percent) on field goals while Davidson hit 43.1 percent (22 of 51) of its shots.
    “We just can’t score,” Cram said. “And then we start playing scared, and you can’t play this game — especially this time of year — if you’re not being the aggressors and (are) confident. That’s the people who are going to win right now, and right now we are not those people.”
Notes: Mercedes Robinson scored a career and game-high 23 points on 10-for-14 shooting, and Kelsey Cary added 12 points for Davidson…Carolyn Whitney and Jessica Geiger scored nine apiece to lead GSU…The Eagles won the rebounding battle 40-38 but were outscored 32-22 in the paint.

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