Coming off two consecutive losses in which it struggled to shoot from any sort of range, the Georgia Southern men’s basketball team began Thursday night’s game against Louisiana-Monroe 0-for-6 from behind the arc and scoreless through the first five minutes.
And then things kicked into gear.
The Eagles ripped off a 22-9 run - including five connections from long range - to storm into the lead and took a double-digit lead at halftime before maintaining the advantage the rest of the way for a 67-56 victory at Hanner Fieldhouse.
Georgia Southern (10-7, 4-2 Sun Belt) once again spread around the scoring wealth to find success. Isaiah Crawley led the way with 17 points while Elijah McCadden netted 13 (including three early 3’s to get the offense going), Quan Jackson dropped in 11 and Ike Smith and Simeon Carter scored nine and eight points, respectively.
The Eagles shot just 39.7 percent from the field on the night and - in an unfamiliar twist - lost the turnover battle. But the team also performed much better than usual on the glass, out-rebounding the Warhawks (6-9, 2-4) by a count of 41-31 and negating some of its shaky shooting with 12 offensive boards that led to 10 second-chance points.
Finding their stride after the first few minutes of struggles, the Eagles led by as many as 14 points before taking a 37-25 lead into halftime. A 3-pointer by Crawley midway through the second half ballooned the GS lead to 18 points and a short jumper by Crawley with just over five minutes to play served as the high-water mark to put the Eagles up by 19.
UL Monroe chipped away as the Eagles began to clear the bench, but the game was never in doubt down the stretch.
J.D. Williams led the Warhawks with 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting and a perfect 7-for-7 mark from the foul line. Chris Efretuei scored 14 and Michael Ertel added 12, but ULM was done in by a lack of depth as its bench managed just six points on the night.
The Georgia Southern win, combined with Little Rock’s first conference loss of the season, moves the Eagles to within a game of the top spot in the Sun Belt. The Eagles can maintain that margin - and possibly climb into a tie for the league lead - with a win over Louisiana-Lafayette to cap off the weekend homestand.
The Ragin’ Cajuns were blown out at the hands of Georgia State in Atlanta Thursday night and will make the trip down I-16 ahead of a 4 p.m. Saturday tipoff at Hanner.