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Lady Eagles struggle, fall to Appalachian State
85-68 loss makes five in a row overall for GSU
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Georgia Southern’s Shawnda Atwood laments after a fast-break outlet pass sails out of bounds in the first half Saturday against Appalachian State. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT /Staff
    Georgia Southern knows what’s missing, and there’s only one way to get it back.    
    “There was definitely a lack of confidence tonight,” said junior Shawnda Atwood after Appalachian State rolled to an 85-68 Southern Conference win Saturday at Hanner Fieldhouse. “Of course, when you lose four or five straight, the doubt arouses. We need a win really bad, and hopefully when we get that win our confidence will improve.”
    The Eagles were desperately trying to snap their midseason slump, but a shaky start and a hot Mountaineer team doused those hopes as Georgia Southern (7-12, 2-6) dropped its fifth straight to fall into a tie with Elon for eighth place in the league standings.
    Meanwhile, ASU (9-10, 3-5) shot 57.1 percent from the field and hit 66.7 percent of its 3-pointers for the game – both season highs – to pick up its first win in five tries. The Eagles didn’t have an answer for junior guard Maria Grimes, who posted game and career-highs in points (33) and rebounds (10). She was 6 of 7 from behind the arc, and her six 3s were one shy of a school record.
    “I’m in almost a state of shock at what I saw out there tonight,” Eagle coach Rusty Cram said. “We didn’t play very smart. I never thought I’d see a team like this year’s team play defense like we did tonight. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am. We can’t score. It’s frustrating, and we are letting it affect us in all areas.”
    GSU’s on-going shooting woes continued in the first half when the Eagles went more than 12 minutes without a field goal and were 4-for-28 (14.3 percent) from the field. Offensively, it was their worst half of basketball this season.
    “We weren’t in a rhythm from start to finish – offensively, defensively. The post game wasn’t there, we never got the inside-outside game,” Cram said. “I never felt like we got in a good fluid motion. We are not shooting the ball well, but when you’re not playing hard, aggressive and with confidence you are not going to shoot the ball well anyway.”
    Playing for the first time since Jan. 6, Atwood battled through an injured right ankle to tie for a team-high 14 points. Cram said he was hoping to keep Atwood on the bench but played her out of necessity.
    “I’m basically just trying to fight through it,” Atwood said. “I’m going to go out hurt, whatever I have to do to help the team. Even if it means just being on the bench picking everybody up, then that’s my role. We just need more people stepping up and us to come together as a team. When a team loses, it starts to fall apart, and it shows on the court.”
    A Brittany Mixon layup 12:09 before the half gave ASU an 11-point edge, an advantage GSU never trimmed to single digits again. The Mountaineers led 35-21 at the half and by as many as 27 with 6:10 to go. Georgia Southern was out-rebounded for the fourth straight game with ASU owning a 44-38 edge on the glass.
    “There’s no excuse for that,” Cram said. “We are just playing scared right now.”
    Chequilla Jessie added 14 points for GSU, while Tiffany Brown scored 12. Jamie Bennett (13) and Whitney Ketner (10) also reached double figures for ASU.
    Georgia Southern’s young team, which doesn’t have any seniors, is trying to “get over the hump,” Cram said.
    “The pressure of trying to get over the hump has finally gotten to them,” he said. “We talked to them about not succumbing and giving into it – they’ve got to fight until something good happens.”
    The Eagles begin a tough three-game road trip Monday with a 7 p.m. game at perennial power Chattanooga.
    “Until we win a basketball game, they are going to continue to doubt who they are,” Cram said. “We have to get a ‘W’ under our belt. We did everything we could as a coaching staff to try to get them prepared for this game to try to go on the road with a ‘W’ – they just didn’t respond.”
    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.