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GSU women host College of Charleston to begin conference slate
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    From the looks of it, a young Lady Eagle team has turned a corner, and that’s exactly what Georgia Southern coach Rusty Cram wants to see this time of year.
    After an early five-game losing streak, the Eagles (5-5, 0-0) have reeled off four straight wins, most recently a hard-fought 76-69 home victory over Jacksonville Wednesday. And with Southern Conference play beginning today when GSU hosts the College of Charleston at 5 p.m., the Eagles hope to keep rolling.
    “We believe we are ready, but we know the SoCon is going to give us everything it’s got,” said sophomore Ashley Rivens, who tied Tiffany Brown for a team-high 15 points against JU. “We’ve got to prepare, but we should be fine.”
    On Wednesday, the Eagles weathered a late Jacksonville rally, an effort Cram viewed as promising.
    “Every win we get, we are going to get that much more confident with this ball club,” he said. “Instead of going into a game hoping to win, and you can start to see this in them, they go into games expecting to win. That’s something we haven’t had in a year or two. When they walk on the court, their confidence is just growing more and more.”
    Cram was glad the Eagles kept their winning streak alive against Jacksonville despite uncharacteristically attempting very few shots along the perimeter. GSU shot 55.2 percent for the game, including a 67.7 percent clip in the first 20 minutes. Four Eagles reached double figures on the night.
    “These kids continue to fight,” Cram said. “They are finding a way to win. Every game it seems like another part of the game that you are not counting on is stepping up. And when they put it all together, they are going to be a pretty good ball club.”
    The Eagles will be up against a College of Charleston team that has dropped its last two games and hasn’t played since a 56-41 loss at UNC Wilmington Dec. 2. GSU leads the all-time series with Charleston 19-7 and owns a perfect mark against the Cougars at Hanner Fieldhouse.
    Southern expects the Cougars to push the ball up the court early and try to get some inside shots. C of C is led by 5-foot-6 sophomore guard Jade Hughes, who is averaging 11.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Sophomore forward Nikki Williams also averages in double figures with 10.7 points a game, while senior forward Melissa Chambers records 8.6 points and a team-high 6.9 rebounds a contest.
    “Last year we started 0-1 in conference play because of a loss at Charleston, but this year Charleston is coming here,” Brown said. “We are feeling confident about it this time.”
    Notes: Today is Bulloch County Elementary School Day, so all students grades pre-kindergarten through fifth will receive free admission to the game. …Wednesday’s victory was Cram’s 159th career win. He is four victories shy of becoming the winningest women’s basketball coach at GSU. In his 11th year at the helm of the program, Cram owns a 159-138 record.

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