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Eagles, Cougars meet again
022407 GSU HOOPS 3
G eorgia Southern's Matt Fields, top, steals an inbound pass intended for College of Charleston guard Dontaye Draper, (11) at Hanner Fieldhouse in this file photo. The Eagles and Cougars renew their rivalry tonight at 7:30 p.m. - photo by FILE
    A home game against a Southern Conference South Division rival might be just what Georgia Southern needs to snap out of its recent lull.
    The Eagles (9-5, 2-2 SoCon) never have trouble getting pumped for the College of Charleston, which visits Hanner Fieldhouse for a 7:30 game tonight. Ten of the last 15 meetings between these teams have been decided by nine points or less, including five by three or fewer. They haven’t met since the Cougars (7-7, 2-2) knocked the Eagles out of the SoCon tournament last March.
    “It’s become a huge game for both programs,” Georgia Southern coach Jeff Price said. “We’ve had some great games with them. It’s become a very heated game and usually means a lot towards the end of the season in the standings because both of our programs have been fortunate to play at the top of the league. We both know each other well, and it should be a good game.”
    The Eagles are hoping to eliminate the slow offensive starts they’ve suffered through the last three games, all losses, when they’ve shot 33.6 percent in the opening period. GSU’s two most recent defeats came on the road against league-heavyweight Davidson and contender UNC Greensboro.
    “We need to rebound, and we are going to put the two losses behind us,” Price said. “You’ve got to keep things in perspective — I think we played two of the best teams in the league on the road back-to-back, which is hard to do. Hopefully we’ll come back home, regroup a little bit and shoot the ball better.
    “We just haven’t shot the ball well. That has hurt us more than anything — our inability to make shots. When we are doing that, you can only defend for so long. We’ve got to find a way to make shots and score points.”
    The Eagles were solid offensively early in the season, so Price is hoping his team will be able to shoot its way out of its mini-slump.
    “It’s just something we are going through right now that certainly we’ll get through,” he said. “We’ll be more aggressively offensively and maybe find more creative ways to score.”
    The Cougars have won three of their last four, most recently an uneven performance over Elon at home last Saturday. Charleston has been up and down during games and from contest to contest but has shown signs of developing into a solid team, particularly in narrow losses to Florida State (66-61) and South Carolina (85-82).
    Charleston players say their team is still searching for its identity, and aside from The Citadel — which is currently starting five freshmen — the Cougars have one of the youngest lineups in the conference. At times, their five-man set includes four freshmen.
    “They are a talented young team that keeps getting better,” Price said. “They’re the type of team that will probably continue to grow and get better as we get closer to the tournament. They are a little bit streaky (because of their youth) and are a very dangerous team. They are very capable and are a really talented team.”
    Led by former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins, who came out of retirement prior to last season, the Cougars have four players averaging in double-figures starting with sophomore guard Tony White Jr. (13.4 ppg) and junior forward Jermaine Johnson (12.6 ppg, 8.9 rpg). The Eagles will keep close tabs on Charleston behind the arc where the Cougars attempt 25.4 3-pointers and hit 8.5 a game, second and third-most in the SoCon respectively. GSU boasts the league’s top 3-point defense.
    “We’ve got to be sure not to let them get on a roll with 3-point shots,” Price said. “All of their players shoot almost half their field goals from the 3-point line.”
    GSU junior guard Julian Allen, who transferred in this season, will get his first taste of the GSU/Charleston rivalry tonight.
    “According to coach and the guys that have been here, they are a good shooting club,” he said. “I think we can take them if we just play our game, stay focused and get back on a winning streak.”

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