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Troy sends Lady Eagles to second straight home loss
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    When Rusty Cram searched for reasons why his team lost Thursday night, he immediately ruled out a lack of effort. That much was obvious after the Georgia Southern women sliced a 17-point, second-half deficit to 3 with 10 seconds remaining.
    Even after Troy cushioned its lead to five on a pair of free throws three ticks later, GSU guard Tiffany Brown kept scratching away. She missed a 3-pointer with three seconds to go but stole the rebound at half court and went for another as the final buzzer sounded. Despite the late effort, Georgia Southern couldn’t overcome its shooting woes, falling to Troy 58-53 Thursday at Hanner Fieldhouse.
    “The heart was there, and we can build from that,” Cram said. “We made some mistakes at the wrong times, but we stepped up, too. We’ll get better if they play with that kind of heart.”
    Christmas lights dangled from the railings at Hanner, and offensively, the Eagles (5-7) looked like they’d already left campus for the holiday break. GSU was 6 for 33 (18.2 percent) from the field in the first half and shot 22.1 percent (15 of 68) for the game. The Eagles missed 8 of 10 free throws down the stretch, which was especially discouraging after forcing Troy (8-4) into a season-high 29 turnovers.
    “That’s just hard to overcome,” Cram said. “I don’t care what kind of defense you are playing, you’ve got to be able to put the ball in the hole. That’s the bottom line.”
    The Trojans ended the first half with a 15-4 run to take a 28-19 edge into the locker room. Ashley Rivens’ reverse layup gave GSU the first two points of the final 20 minutes, but Troy responded with 10 unanswered points for its largest lead of the night, a 38-21 advantage with 16:07.
    But the Eagles roared back, never giving up hope of a come-from-behind victory. Brown was the only GSU player to reach double figures, finishing with a game-high 18.
    “We’ve been talking about always having intensity,” said Brown, who scored GSU’s final eight points. “If you work hard, you win. We kind let down just a little bit, but we still worked hard towards the end and didn’t give up.”
    Cram said the Eagles desperately need the compliment of the inside/outside game, but right now they don’t have either. GSU was outscored 24-12 in the paint and was 6 of 29 from behind the arc.
    “People are going to continue to stay in the lane and sag on us until we start hitting some perimeter shots, bringing them out of the paint and getting some post game,” he said.
     Four Trojans posted double figures led by Kylie Morrissy’s 15.
    The Eagles are off until resuming Southern Conference play Dec. 30, hosting Furman at 1 p.m. Practicing shooting, Brown said, will definitely be on the team’s agenda between now and then. And once they get their troubles straightened out, Cram feels good about this group.
    “These kids are going to do nothing but get better,” Cram said. “Our biggest job is keeping their poise and keeping their heads up.”

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