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Eagles dunk Cougars - Video highlights
Southern outscores CofC in overtime
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Anthony Marshall cheers for his teammates from the bench as the Eagles overcome an eight-point deficit in the second half. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

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GSU vs. College of Charleston video highlights

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    Matt Fields hadn’t exactly planned on delivering a halftime speech, but the Georgia Southern senior forward knew the situation called for it.
    With the Eagles down seven at the break and momentum swinging towards the College of Charleston, Fields urged his teammates to have a blast when they returned to the hardwood.
    The Eagles took his advice, opening the second half with increased intensity and maintaining their poise in overtime to secure a 96-90 Southern Conference win over the Cougars Thursday night at Hanner Fieldhouse.
    “I don’t know where it came from,” Fields said. “But it seemed we weren’t having fun out there in the first half and in our last two games. When we started the season, we were obviously having fun and won seven in a row. We just needed to get back to that.”
    The win left the Eagles (10-5, 3-2) with plenty to be happy about – a league victory over a South Division rival, snapping their three-game losing skid, hanging on in a close game and defeating Charleston (7-8, 2-3) for the fifth-straight time at Hanner.
    “I was proud of our team,” Georgia Southern coach Jeff Price said. “I didn’t think we played particularly well, definitely in the first half. I think it was very obvious our change of intensity in the way we approached the beginning of the second half with a lot more aggressiveness on the boards. We decided to man up a little bit and quit getting pushed around.”
    A jumper by GSU’s Kenith Ward with 29 seconds left in regulation was answered with a Dustin Scott basket to knot the game at 80 and force overtime. The Eagles then cranked up their defensive effort, holding the Cougars to 2 of 7 shooting in overtime, and nailed 6 of 8 free throws to seal the win. Eleven of the last 16 meetings between the Eagles and Charleston have been decided by nine points or less.
    “It’s a different buzz, a playoff-type of buzz,” Eagle freshman Willie Powers said of his first taste of the GSU/Charleston rivalry. “It’s fun to play in. We felt like this was a must-win, especially at home. We needed it for a confidence boost and to get back on track.”
    Powers led four Eagles in double figures with 23 points, while Fields tied a career-high with 18, Julian Allen added 15 and nine rebounds and Louis Graham scored 14.
    Five Cougars posted double figures, paced by sophomore guard Tony White Jr.’s career and game-high 26. Andrew Goudelock (14), Jermaine Johnson (12), Konimba Diarra (12) and Scott (20) also shined for Charleston.
    It was an evenly matched first half with neither team leading by more than three until Charleston broke loose late. The Cougars put up a 12-2 run, including eight unanswered points as time expired to take a 37-30 edge at the half.
    Inspired by Fields’ speech, the Eagles bounced back to start the final half, pulling within two at 40-38 on a put-back by Fields with 17:45 to go. But Charleston pushed its lead back to seven before a layup and a fastbreak dunk by Antoine Johnson ignited a 15-4 GSU surge to put the Eagles on top 75-69. The Cougars countered with seven straight points.
    “I always say our team is going to be as good as our seniors, and I thought we had some pretty good senior leadership down the stretch,” Price said. “We took the game to them the beginning of the second half and all of a sudden got it back down to two. I thought that was the difference in the game.”
    The Eagles begin a three-game road trip Saturday at The Citadel and return home January 24 for a 7:30 p.m. game with Wofford.
   Notes: Charleston big man Jermaine Johnson fouled out with 3:42 left in regulation…The Eagles hit 53.6 of their shots while the Cougars shot 54.8 percent for the game, the first Eagle opponent to shoot better than 50 percent in a game this season.

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