The Georgia Southern women’s basketball team continues to inch closer and closer to an historic start to the season. The Eagles opened up the GATA Turkey Throwdown Friday afternoon at Hanner Fieldhouse with a 72-57 win over South Carolina State to improve to 5-1 on the season.
“Hat’s off to South Carolina State as I thought they made us continue to fight throughout the game,” said Eagle coach Anita Howard. “I thought their zone gave us some problems but I think we were finally able to settle down and adjust toward the end of the game and I feel other teams will try zone against us after what they saw today.”
The Eagles 5-1 record is the best start for the women’s basketball team at Georgia Southern since the 1981-82 season when the Eagles started 7-1 on their way to a 26-5 finish on their way to the AIAW National Championships where they lost to Rutgers 89-79 in the Sweet-16.
Friday afternoon the Eagles were in control throughout the first half, leading by as many as 22 points before going to the half up 42-26 as the Eagles controlled things in the paint and were led by sophomore Terren Ward with 11 points.
In the second half the Eagles came out a little flat and saw the Bulldogs cut the lead to 56-50 much to the dismay of coach Howard.
“We all enjoyed a little Thanksgiving turnkey yesterday and I’m not sure if that's why we came out so sluggish in the second half today,” said Howard. “I think we thought we could take our foot off the gas going into halftime but they came out hot and we had to match that in the fourth quarter.”
The Bulldogs got as close as 62-57 on a Rakha Reid layup with 6:24 to go, but the Eagles then went on a 10-0 run to close the game. The Eagles got a game high 21 points from Ward to lead the way.
“I was really pleased with Terren Ward’s effort,” said Howard. “She was 100 percent from the free throw line and a +18 for us in the game. She picked up her fourth foul with over seven minutes to go in the fourth and she asked if I would trust her to play with four fouls and I told her I would and she managed to go the rest of the way without picking up her fifth.”
The Eagles didn’t shoot the ball particularly well as they were just 38 percent from the field and 30 percent from the three-point line. Georgia Southern did manage 12 steals in the game and were leading the NCAA in steals for the season entering the game.
“We definitely rely on our defense,” said Howard. “As a defensive coach, defense should be our offense and on nights like tonight when we aren’t shooting as well the defense is what keeps us in games. I’m pleased to see the chemistry with our different rotations all step up on defense.”
The other game Friday saw Jacksonville State knockoff Indiana State 67-57. Jacksonville State and South Carolina State will play Saturday at 1:00. Georgia Southern will play Indiana State Saturday at 3:30 p.m.