Coming off a sweep on the road at Appalachian State the Georgia Southern men’s basketball team had their backs against the walls. The Eagles responded nicely this past weekend with a two-game sweep of Troy, which evened their Sun Belt record at 3-3 and kept them in the hunt for a possible championship.
“We came back from the Appalachian State trip and we really had to refocus,” said Eagle Coach Brian Burg. “We went back to the basics and our original approach. We had a great week of practice that put us in an excellent position to play Troy, and the guys executed the game plan.”
The Eagles are continuing to become more comfortable playing together, as Coach Burg has only two scholarship players returning from a year ago, and everyone else in their first year with the program.
“We have really only had our complete roster for five games so far this season,” said Burg. “Guys are becoming more familiar with how each other plays. I feel if we continue the path we are on, we are going to be playing our best basketball late in the season.”
Leading scorer Zack Bryant (14.5 points per game) is coming off a solid weekend which included a 17-point performance in Saturday’s 63-56 win over Troy. Other players who are starting to find their form include Kamari Brown who had 12 points against the Trojans on Friday and Saturday.
“Both guys have really started buying into the process,” said Burg. “When you buy into the program and are consistent, good things are going to happen. Those guys were rewarded this past week.”
This weekend the Eagles begin something very unique in college basketball. With the way the Sun Belt has broken into two separate divisions, teams will play divisional teams up to four times. The Eagles begin that oddity this weekend with a trip to Mobile and a matchup with South Alabama.
“I have never experienced anything like this, but there are a lot of firsts this year in regard to the pandemic,” said Burg. “You become very familiar with your opponent going into the third and fourth games against them. I believe it is all about the adjustments you make. At the same time, you have to continue to get your own team better.”
The Eagles split with the Jaguars earlier this month in Statesboro. It was an unusual two-game series which saw the Jaguars hand the Eagles their worst loss in Sun Belt history 88-59, only to see the Eagles storm back on Saturday to earn the split with an impressive 62-49 victory.
“Give credit to our players in the first series as they were able to bounce back,” said Burg. “With such a short turnaround that can be tough to put a game like the first one behind you and come out the way we did especially on defense there on Saturday.”
The Jaguars feature the league's leading scorer in Michael Flowers (22.2 points per game) and Tyreke Locure (13.4 ppg and 5 rebounds per contest). In their earlier matchup with the Eagles Flowers had 26 points in the Jags win over the Eagles, while John Pettway averaged 15 points in the two-game series.
“We know we are going to get a lot of different looks from them defensively,” said Burg. “Flowers is an elite level scorer. He has the ability to score on all three levels and plays well with the ball in his hands. Pettway is a high motor player and has the ability to shoot the shots that are his game shots. He is extremely tough defensively and has the ability to get on the offensive boards.”
One thing the Eagles are doing a much better job as of late is shooting from behind the three-point line. In the Eagles sweep of Troy they had 10 three-pointers in each game.
“We rae now taking what I’d call the right three pointers,” said Burg. “The ball is going from inside to out, and those are the right three pointers to take. We settled too much at times for contested three pointers. The three pointers are falling because our guys are putting in the work in the gym, but also because they are taking the right three pointers now.”
The Eagles and Jaguars are set for a 6:00 start on Friday and will play against Saturday at 4 p.m. in Mobile, Ala..