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Graham does it again as Eagles beat Elon
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    What started as a defensive breakthrough last Saturday has evolved into an all-out rampage for the Georgia Southern men, who continue stifling Southern Conference opponents with their pressuring style.
    This time the Eagles’ prey was Elon, who GSU held to a lowly 15 first-half points Saturday en route to a 59-44 win at Hanner Fieldhouse. The 44 points were the fewest GSU’s allowed to a league opponent since March 5, 1993 (The Citadel, 41).
    “We are taking on an identity of defense right now,” said senior Louis Graham, who put up a game-high 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for his 30th career double-double. “Great teams rebound the ball and play defense. We need to keep taking on that identity of defense going into the SoCon tournament because defense wins games.”
    It was the fifth straight win for Georgia Southern (19-8, 12-5), which improved to 10-1 at home this year. The Eagles, winners of seven of their last eight games, completed their season sweep of Elon (10-16, 8-10). The Phoenix lost for the first time in four games.
    With the win, the Eagles are a game ahead of Chattanooga for the SoCon tournament’s No. 3 seed.
    As Georgia Southern anticipated, it was a disciplined, low-possession game, and the Eagles prevailed by limiting Elon to 32.2 shooting from the field (19 of 59). The Phoenix shot 25 percent (7 of 28) in the first 20 minutes and made limited just two trips to the free-throw line on the night.
    “That’s the sign of a team playing smart — playing with their feet and not their hands — and doing some good things,” Eagle coach Jeff Price said.
    Graham continues to motor the Eagles, turning in his seventh 20-point performance in 10 games. Matthew Fields also finished with a double-double — the fourth of his career — with 14 points and 12 boards. Anthony Marshall added 12 points, and the Eagles held a commanding 44-28 edge on the glass.
    “Louis and Matt were huge inside,” Price said. “They were workhorses and did a nice job defending the paint.”
    Down 13 at the break, Elon stayed alive with an 11-3 run midway through the second half to pull within nine. But the Eagles quickly regained the momentum, putting up eight straight points to go ahead by 17 after Graham hit a jumper and a pair of free throws.
    Though the Eagles improved their shooting from 33.3 percent in the first half to 48 percent in the final period, Price thought his team looked fatigued after halftime.
    “I definitely think we need a day off,” he said. “Our defense in the first half was really good, and it held on in the second half.”
    Elon held a brief three-point lead early before Georgia Southern broke away with a 14-2 run to go up by nine after two Marshall free throws. The Phoenix then scored six straight points to cut their deficit to three before GSU ended the half with a 12-2 run — including 10 straight points — to take a 28-15 lead at the break.
    The Eagles return to play Wednesday, hosting The Citadel in a 7:30 p.m. game.
Notes: GSU had a moment of silence before the game in memory of three students — Melissa Eustice, Jessica Fulmer and Jamie Carter — who died in a car accident earlier this week…The Eagle baseball team was introduced at halftime. They open their season Friday, hosting Boston College for a weekend series…Graham and Fields became the first Eagle teammates to post double-doubles since Dec. 2006…Fields’ 12 rebounds tied his career high.

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.