The Georgia Southern men and women will officially usher in the 2022-23 Sun Belt basketball season with a doubleheader Thursday at Hanner Fieldhouse. The women get things underway Thursday at 5 p.m. as they host Texas State, while the guys will take on South Alabama at 8 p.m.
The Georgia Southern women come in with an impressive 8-1 record with their lone loss coming to Gardner Webb who were preseason pick to win the Big South Conference. The Eagles came back from break and practiced on the 26th despite a few players being delayed a day or two due to weather issues.
“We finally got everyone back from travel issues on Wednesday,” said Eagle coach Anita Howard. “I am hopeful that we learned some things from out non-conference schedule. I would have liked to have had a couple more games under our belt before starting Sun Belt play but I feel like we showed growth in closing out games and I am hoping that will carry over into our conference play.”
The Eagles have been showing quality depth in their non-conference schedule having as many as 14 players score in multiple games. Howard doesn’t expect that to change too much come conference play although she says she will be relying heavily on leading scorer Terren Ward (16 points per game) and Ja’Nya Love-Hill to give the Eagles at least 20 minutes per contest.
“I still like our depth and I think that is one of our strengths,” said Howard. “We can go a lot further down our bench than most teams and that does a great job of keeping us rested. We still we expect our top couple players like Terren and Ja’Nya to play a little more because we count on them so much. Only a few players on the roster will play more than 20 minutes that is just our philosophy.”
Thursday the Eagles open Sun Belt play as they host Texas State at 5:00. The Bobcats come in 8-3 and coach Howard is expecting a battle.
“Our league is one of the tops among the mid-majors in my opinion,” said Howard. “Luckily, we get to open up at home which is a positive for us. Texas State is well coached and have probably the most seasoned team in the league. They have great point guard play as well as great post play. Usually, you can take one of those things away but it will be a challenge because they aren’t one dimensional.”
For the Georgia Southern men, they completed their non-conference schedule with a record of 7-6. The Eagles have won three of their last five games with their two losses coming by a combined seven points. Head Coach Brian Burg says the team is still frustrated by their 58-54 loss to Ball State on Dec. 21 but are ready to get into Sun Belt play.
“We feel like we played 36 really good minutes of basketball,” said Burg. “We held a team that averages about 78 points per game to only 58 points. We had a stretch in the second half that really hurt us in not playing transition defense as they went on a 16-0 run. We are hungry to get into Sun Belt play and are excited about Thursday.”
The Eagles currently have only one player scoring double figures and that is Andrei Savrasov who is averaging 12.8 points pr game. The Eagles do have six players averaging between 7.5 and 9.8 points per contest and while they are struggling from behind the three-point line at 27 percent, they are shooting 44 percent from the field.
“I think we need to do a better job of taking the right three-point shots,” said Burg. “The inside out three pointers and the paint touch into a three. I’d like us to go from shooting about 20 per game to about 16. Inside we are shooting close to 50 percent and two guys are shooting over 50 percent. Carlos Curry is currently leading the league in field goal percentage at 74 percent. We just need to do a better job shooting quality shots.”
Thursday night the Eagles host South Alabama who come in with a record of 6-6. The Jags are led by Isaiah Moore who comes in averaging over 18 points per game. Kevin Samuel is their top post player and averages 11.8 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per contest and is 7-0 and 260 pounds.
“They are an old graduate transfer team,” said Burg. “Every player in their starting five is a senior. Moore leads the team and is unique in he averages over 18 points per game and doesn’t shoot many three pointers. Turbo Jones is a dynamic guard from Auburn and on the wing, they have Greg Parham who played at VMI where he averaged about 18 points per game and is a good three-point shooter. Samuel is a force inside and was at TCU when I was down at Texas Tech and is great on the offensive boards.”
The Eagles and Jaguars are scheduled for an 8:00 start Thursday at Hanner Fieldhouse.