The Georgia Southern men’s basketball team improved to 3-0 in Sun Belt Conference play Thursday night with a 70-67 victory over Coastal Carolina in Conway, S.C.
The three-point win matched the same narrow margin of victory that the Eagles (9-5, 3-0) used to win their first two conference tilts two weeks ago, but the close final score doesn’t do justice to the shaky nerves Georgia Southern had to battle down the stetch.
Georgia Southern never trailed in the game. In fact, it led by as many as 18 points early in the second half and - buoyed by a barrage of early 3-point shooting - looked to have the Chanticleers (8-6, 1-2) put to bed early. But Coastal ripped off a 16-0 run midway through the second half as the Eagles suffered through an 0-for-9 clip from the floor and tied the game with just over seven minutes to play.
Rattled - but possibly propped up by the confidence of strong finishes that earned wins in their first two conference games - the Eagles were able to stop the bleeding. Elijah McCadden (16 points) hit from behind the arc to stop the CCU run and Quan Jackson (22 points) hit a huge 3 to extend GS to a two-possession lead inside of five minutes to play.
The Chanticleers stayed hot on the Eagles’ heels, but the home side finally blinked with just under a minute to play. Tommy Burton stepped to the line with Coastal trailing by two points and missed both of his free throw attempts. The Chanticleers got another chance - still trailing by two - with 14 seconds left, only to see a deep 3-point attempt by DeVantae Jones rim out.
Coastal had one final attempt to tie when Calvin Wishart (13 points) missed the back end of two free throw attempts. However, Wishart was able to tap away a long rebound, which started the clock that had less than five seconds remaining. Coastal eventually gained possession, but didn’t have time to put up a shot and the Eagles walked away with a sigh of relief and a strong start to the conference schedule.
Georgia Southern lit up the nets from long range early on. Wishart hit his first four attempts from behind the arc, Jackson hit a total of five on the night, and the team built a 40-28 halftime lead on the strength of an 11-of-19 showing from deep.
As the game wore on, it was the Eagles’ ability to share the ball - and the scoring opportunities - that paid off.
While Jackson led the way on the score sheet, McCadden and Wishart were close behind and Ike Smith also netted 11 points despite a rough night from the field. The Eagles continue to boast four players who average more than 10 points per game and once again won the turnover battle as they forced 14 miscues by the Chanticleers.
The Eagles will stay on the road as they cross over from South Carolina to North Carolina Thursday night before making their way up the mountain to Boone for a Saturday showdown against Appalachian State. From there, the Eagles will catch a flight to Little Rock for a rare Monday game before returning to Hanner Fieldhouse next weekend for their first home games of the new year.