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GS men, ladies on different courses

The Georgia Southern men and women get back to action on the hardwood this week as the men look to stop a four-game skid, while the women are hoping to build on two wins last Thursday and Saturday at home. 

For the guys, life on the road has been pretty hard. The Eagles are currently 12-13 overall and 5-7 in league play and have lost their last four games, most of them in heartbreaking fashion. They have lost by seven, six, four and three points including a game in which they held a 19-point halftime lead. Coach Brian Burg feels the team was right in every game and is hoping they can do a better job of closing things out. 

“We are losing one or two possession games,” said Burg. “That is the way many of these Sun Belt games are. You have to find a way to win the close games, especially in the month of February. We have been able to put ourselves in a position to win, now it’s time to finish things off.” 

One thing Burg thinks will help the Eagles rebound from their recent streak is being back at Hanner Fieldhouse for four of their last six games.

“It is getting to that point in February where it is late in the year and you need to make a push,” said Burg. “Obviously being back at Hanner is something our team is looking forward to. We are striving to play our best basketball and I am counting on the leadership of seniors like Tai Strickland, Kamari Brown and Kaden Archie. I think we can get back to a routine at home and I think that will pay off.”

Things start Thursday for the Eagles as they host James Madison in a game full of story lines. The most obvious one is the return to Hanner Fieldhouse for former Eagle head coach Mark Byington. Byington coached at Georgia Southern for seven seasons before leaving for JMU where he went from last place to first place in the CAA conference from his first to second season. 

While at Georgia Southern Byington led the Eagles to three consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time since the 1980’s. He posted a 131-97 record while at Georgia Southern where he also produced 13 all-conference selections including Tookie Brown who was named Sun Belt player of the year in 2019. 

“Mark has been a really good guy to me,” said Burg. “I called him when I first took the job as I wanted to tell him how much I thought of what he did while he was at Georgia Southern. I congratulated him on how much success he had here, and also on him getting the job at James Madison. He is a great coach and a good person.” 

Byington currently has the Dukes tied for third in the conference with an 8-4 record. James Madison has been among the national leaders in scoring and currently average over 81 points per game. The Dukes have four players that average double digits including Vado Morse and Terrance Edwards at 12.5 per game. Takal Molson averages 10.8 points per game and Mezie Offurum averages 10.4 points per contest. 

“They are a high scoring team and like to play at a fast tempo,” said Burg. “They are very deep and we will have to get back in transition in order to be successful. We are going to have to match their physicality and then on the offensive end we have to work to get a quality shot because they really try and speed you up.” 

Thursday will also see a battle between two brothers as the Eagles Tai Strickland will be going up against his younger brother Terell who plays for the Dukes. Georgia Southern and James Madison are scheduled for a 7:00 start Thursday at Hanner Fieldhouse. 

For the Georgia Southern women, they hope to carry some momentum from their two home wins this past week as they hit the road for Old Dominion Thursday at 6:30. The Eagles are currently 15-6 overall and 7-5 in Sun Belt play. ODU is 16-9 and 8-4 in league play.