Having a February Saturday off is pretty rare in college basketball, and Georgia Southern coach Jeff Price knew his guys needed the rest.
The Eagles (14-8, 7-5) recently concluded a stretch of four games in eight days with a narrow loss at Chattanooga Thursday to wrap up a difficult January slate. After playing seven of 10 games away from home last month, the Eagles will have six of their final nine regular-season games at Hanner Fieldhouse.
“I know we are looking forward to three straight home games,” Price said. “We’ve got to show up and play, but it’ll be nice to be back on our court.”
The Eagles are 6-1 at Hanner, where they’ll host UNC Greensboro tonight at 7:30. GSU’s women will play first, facing Elon at 5 p.m. The Georgia Southern men are looking to avoid a season sweep by the Spartans (13-6, 6-3), who topped GSU by 12 in early January.
“Hopefully our guys will understand this is a game we need to feel like we’ve got to get,” Price said. “It’s getting later in the conference season. We are playing for byes and looking to hold home court.”
Georgia Southern is currently second in the Southern Conference’s South Division and would get the league tournament’s fifth seed if the season ended today. The top five teams get first-round byes in the tournament, slated to begin March 7 in Charleston, S.C.
The Spartans, third in the North Division, are coming off a huge home win over Elon Saturday and have won four straight since dropping a pair to Chattanooga and Appalachian State.
“They are a good team that’s playing very well right now,” Price said. “They have probably the best player in the conference in (senior big man) Kyle Hines. We did a good job on him last time, but their guard (Kevin) Oleksiak had 29 points. We need to focus on him. He shoots the ball really well, and he’s been playing very well. He’s become more of a go-to guy for them, and we need to be aware of that.”
Price hopes his team has progressed since a Jan. 24 home loss to Wofford when the Eagles led by nine at the break but crumbled after halftime as the Terriers rallied to win.
“You have to take experiences like the Wofford game at home and learn from it,” Price said. “If we learn from it, we’ll be okay. We’ve talked so much about being on the road, and now we have six of our last (nine) at home. In this conference, you better play hard every game and show up. Just because we are on our home court doesn’t mean we can come out and stand around. We need to come out, be intense and take the fight to everybody we play.”
The Eagles worked out Saturday morning and went hard for about an hour Sunday.
GSU women set for Elon
The Georgia Southern women (12-9, 8-2) will look to keep rolling in this afternoon’s home game with Elon. The Lady Eagles are 9-0 at Hanner Fieldhouse and have won seven of their last eight, most recently a home victory over UNC Greensboro Saturday.
The Eagles want to take away the inside against the Phoenix (7-15, 2-8), who have talent despite losses in eight straight conference games.
“It’ll be another tough game,” Eagle coach Rusty Cram said. “They do a great job defensively. They’re not a high-scoring team, but they do such a good job inside. They’re quick where they need to be. We’ve just got to limit their production from the field and do a better job on the rebounding if we are going to play with them.
Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.