Georgia Southern put an exclamation point on a stellar pre-Christmas run Thursday night at Hanner Fieldhouse, and before his guys left town for the holiday, Jeff Price made sure they knew how proud he was.
“We are 8-2, and there’s no doubt we should be 9-1,” Price said following Georgia Southern’s 82-51 non-conference blowout of Asbury. “We let one get away on Saturday (against Florida). It was a pretty positive first semester, and we’ve got to keep the momentum going.”
This one was never in doubt for the Eagles, who led from the start and put Asbury away with a 25-4 run midway through the opening period. Georgia Southern has won eight of its last nine and is 4-0 at Hanner this year. It’s the Eagles’ best start since the 1985-86 season.
“We knew we had to come in and take care of business so we could finish 8-2 before the break,” said senior guard Anthony Marshall, who tied Willie Powers for a team-high 11 points.
GSU rebounded from a season-worst performance at the free-throw line in the Florida game, hitting 10 of 12 from the charity stripe for a season-high 83.3 percent Thursday. Regaining poise at the line was a major focus at practice all week.
“That was important,” Price said. “Free throws are more of a mental and confidence thing. If anything, this game (was) important (for us) to come out and shoot the ball well from the free-throw line and get our confidence back. It was good to see us make them in a game situation.”
With the game put away early, the Eagles were able to use every player on their bench. Thirteen different players put up points for the Eagles, including redshirt freshman Jared Collins, who scored his first career points and finished with a career-high seven. Powers has scored in double figures in nine of ten games this year.
“It’s good to give everybody an opportunity to play in some games because guys are working hard every day in practice,” Price said. “A lot of those guys were preparing to get better for the future and some for this season.”
The Eagles also turned in another solid defensive effort, forcing Asbury (9-4), ranked 25th in the NAIA Division II Coaches’ Poll, to turn the ball over 24 times and shoot 36.7 percent from the field for the game. GSU owned a 48-31 edge on the boards.
“The press really pulled the game away in the first half,” Price said. “It was 12-7, we went to the press and then really struggled with it. Our defensive rebounding has been good all year. We just need to keep it that way.”
The Eagles begin a four-game road jaunt Dec. 28 at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and return to Southern Conference play with a Jan. 3 visit to Davidson.
Notes: Senior Louis Graham didn’t record a block for the first time this year…Senior Brett Johnson led Asbury with a game-high 18 points.
Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.