After playing five of their last six on the road, the Georgia Southern's men's basketball team returns home for the first of two straight at Hanner Fieldhouse, starting with Chattanooga today at 3:30 p.m.
GSU wrapped up the most recent road trip with a 65-62 loss at SoCon North division co-leader UNC Greensboro Monday to end with a 1-5 record. All six games were decided by nine points or less, including four by five or less.
“You keep playing and you try not to let it be mental, said coach Jeff Price. “At Elon, we’re up eight with 53 seconds to go and all of the sudden they keep creeping back, and you can just see it in their eyes like, ‘not again.’ We try to get our guys to understand how close we are. Losing five games in the last two possessions is unbelievable. They just need to continue to understand and keep things in perspective - that we’re awfully close and eventually things will turn our way.”
Chattanooga defeated Georgia Southern 67-58 last month, a game that saw the Eagles rally from a 12-point deficit late in the second half to tie, only to give up a 9-0 run to end the contest.
“Our team is looking every game to get better and improve by tournament time, and this is another game to allow us to work on things. I think we’re looking at it like that more than ‘we’ve played them and they beat us.’ Our guys understand how important it is to hold home court and we need to do our best to do that.”
An area Price is emphasizing is free throws. GSU’s opponents have made 152 more free throws and are shooting 10 percent better at the line on the season. Monday UNCG went 26-40 at the charity stripe compared to 9-14 for the Eagles.
“We’re putting people on the free throw line too much and not getting there enough ourselves. Every game we’ve had in the league except one has gone down to the wire. We haven’t been on the positive side so we need to do a better job of executing late in games.”
The Eagles will be faced with the possible loss of junior point guard Dwayne Foreman, who is listed as ‘questionable’ by Price for today’s game with a hamstring injury. Freshman Antoine Johnson played a conference season-high 22 minutes Monday, 16 of those coming in the second half.
“Well, obviously we’ll have to play Antoine Johnson. He’s young but he’s going to have to get more minutes. There are some other guys that will have to go a little bit deeper and other guys are going to have to contribute.”
Defensively the Eagles have come to play in their last two games, holding the opposition to 36.4 percent shooting from the floor and 29.3 percent from behind the arc. Greensboro shot just 35 percent in the second half and was held without a field goal for the last 3:02. That defense will be tested by UTC’s Keddric Mays, the nation’s second-leading 3-point shooter, converting 3.9 treys per contest. Mays hit five from long-range in the first GSU game this season but has just four combined in his last two outings.
“He hurt us with five 3’s because he shoots a lot of 3’s, but I thought their other players really hurt us driving to the basket. I thought we allowed their inside guys to play better than what they normally do. So it’s not just Mays but it’s a team effort we need to focus on.”
Women look to keep momentum
The Georgia Southern women’s basketball team will play host to Elon today in a 1 p.m. Southern Conference match-up at Hanner Fieldhouse.
The Lady Eagles (8-14, 3-8) return to Statesboro after a three-game road trip that concluded with an 82-67 win at Wofford on Jan. 29. The win over the Terriers broke a seven-game skid and marks GSU’s second victory over Wofford this season.
The Phoenix (9-13, 3-8) come to Hanner Fieldhouse after dropping a pair of games versus Chattanooga (58-50) and Western Carolina (77-66).
The meeting between GSU and Elon marks the second this season and seventh all-time with Elon most recently defeating the Lady Eagles 55-50 at Elon on Jan. 6. The Phoenix lead the all-time series 4-3, with Elon winning the first and last two matches.
Junior guard Tiffany Brown continues to pace the Lady Eagles with 15 points per game. Most recently at Wofford, Brown matched a career-best 27 points on 8 of 10 shooting from the field, including 4 of 5 from 3-point land, while draining 7 of 9 from the charity stripe. Brown also leads the team with 4.7 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.71 3-pointers a game.
Freshman guard Carolyn Whitney follows in the points category with 9.9 per game, but leads in assists (3.2) and free-throw shooting (87.8 percent). In games played through Jan. 28, Whitney’s free-throw shooting ranked 19th-best in the nation.
The Phoenix are led by freshman forward Amber Wall with 8.1 points per game.
With the win at Wofford, GSU coach Rusty Cram tied the record for most victories in the program’s history, behind predecessor Drema Greer, who garnered a 162-101 record in nine years as head coach (1987-96). The 11th-year head coach currently tallies a 162-147 (.524) track record.