Road games in league play are always a tough task, but Georgia Southern made the job look easy Thursday night.
Facing a Troy team that had seen some recent success, the Eagles invaded central Alabama and blasted the Trojans, marching away with an 82-66 victory to begin a road trip in the Yellowhammer State.
Playing without constant contributors David Lee Jones and Travion Lamar, the Eagles were short-handed, yet played one of their most complete games of the season to get ahead early and stave off any possible comeback by Troy (7-12, 4-4) down the stretch.
“We were playing without some guys who are important for us, but everyone stepped up,” GS coach Mark Byington said. “Even with some guys out, we had guys who thought that should have been playing even more minutes. They’re competitive and want to do everything they can to get a win every game.”
Isaiah Crawley stole the show for the Eagles (12-7, 6-2 Sun Belt) as the senior forward unloaded with a game-high 24 points to go along with 10 rebounds for a double-double. Quan Jackson scored 19, Calvin Wishart scored 14 on the strength of four 3-pointers and Ike Smith poured in 12 more as Georgia Southern continued its trend of spreading the wealth throughout the scoresheet.
A free throw by Crawley broke a tie at the 11:22 mark of the first half. That was the first point of what proved to be a 20-7 run for the Eagles. And while Troy managed to pull within 43-35 at halftime, the Trojans never got closer than five points over the final 20 minutes and Georgia Southern was in full control down the stretch to maintain its share of first place in the conference standings.
“We started a little slow,” Byington said. “But then we got aggressive. We were aggressive in scoring on the offensive end and then we stepped up the pressure and shut some things down defensively. A lot of those moments led to separating the game.”
The win was just the third of the year for the Eagles in a true road game, but their ability to control the pace and maintain a lead throughout the majority of play bodes well moving forward. Georgia Southern is unbeaten at Hanner Fieldhouse and has often put up gaudy numbers at home, yet history has shown that a solid road record in conference play is also necessary in order to notch a top seed and bye games at the conference tournament in New Orleans in March.
The Eagles will go for a second consecutive win away from home Saturday afternoon as they take on South Alabama in Mobile.