The Georgia Southern women’s basketball team will be hoping home sweet home will help them even their Sun Belt Conference record this weekend, as they return to Hanner Fieldhouse for a two-game series against South Alabama Friday at 6:00 and Saturday at 4:00.
The Eagles dropped a pair of games at top-seeded Troy this past weekend, and currently stand 2-4 in conference play. The Eagles are 3-2 in the friendly confines of Hanner Fieldhouse and are looking forward to returning home where Coach Anita Howard feels home court is a huge advantage.
“A lot of our players play their best ball at home,” said Howard. “We typically shoot better, and just feel a lot more comfortable at home. We get to play in front of Eagle Nation and the Hanner Hooligans are there cheering us on. It’s a comfortable environment especially with such a young group.”
The Eagles have been mixing some talented newcomers in with their returning players and Howard feels despite last weekend's sweep things are starting to click.
“I think the chemistry has been there from the beginning with this group as far as off the court,” said Howard. “They have gelled well together away from the court, now we want to see that same kind of chemistry on the court and in the games. I think they are figuring out who likes the ball where, who can catch no-look passes and different things that will help them grow on the court.”
A’tyanna Gaulden (12.2 points per game) is currently the only Eagle player in double figures. Shondell Vickers is second in scoring (8.3 ppg) and leads the team in rebounding (7.6 rebounds per game). Senior Tatum Barber (8.2 ppg) led the team in scoring last season, but this year has given the Eagles a spark off the bench.
“Gaulden brings a confident swag because she has been successful on the highest level,” said Howard. “She is someone the players can turn to and is a great leader in addition to being a great player. Tatum Barber would prefer to start for us, but she has bought into the role of being that power off the bench for us. She has embraced the role we have asked her to play. Sometimes I forget Shonell is just a sophomore. She already has a few double doubles for us and has been Conference player of the week. She has a bright future, but we have a lot of other players stepping up this year as well."
This weekend things will get interesting for many Sun Belt teams as they will be playing teams for the third and fourth time this year. The Eagles already split with South Alabama earlier this month losing 71-65, and then coming back to take the second game 78-71.
“It’s difficult to beat a team twice, let alone beat them three or four times in a season,” said Howard. “On our side of the division in the conference we have a lot of really good teams. Having to play a solid team four different times is a unique experience, but after seeing them twice at their place, I feel getting them here will really help us.”
The Jaguars are led by their talented trio of Devyn Lowe (12.8 points per game), Mahogany Vaught (12.6 ppg) and Antoinette Lewis (12.5 ppg, 9 rebounds per game). One player the Eagles didn’t see in their first meeting is Savannah Jones who comes in averaging 9.3 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game.
“We know they are a seasoned team with a lot of talented players,” said Howard. We didn’t see Savannah Jones at their place, but we know how good she is. Lewis was pre-season player of the year and is a force inside. They have had a lot of players step up this year, and we know they like to shoot a lot of three-pointers. It will be a challenge, but we feel we are up for it.”
The Eagles and Jaguars are set for a 6:00 start on Friday and will play again Saturday at 4:00 at Hanner Fieldhouse.