The Georgia Southern women’s basketball team hung around South Alabama for well over three quarters, only to see things turn sour in the closing minutes Thursday night at Hanner Fieldhouse.
The Eagles held a one-point lead with just over three minutes to play, but the Jaguars closed out the contest on a 13-3 run to send Georgia Southern to its second straight Sun Belt loss in a 55-46 defeat.
“In a year and a half here, this might be my most disappointing loss,” GS coach Kip Drown said. “We just didn’t come out ready to play. We never really got anything going and we didn’t have any consistency when we needed it.”
Georgia Southern (4-9, 0-2 Sun Belt) trailed by four as the fourth quarter began and South Alabama (6-7, 1-1) added a pair of jumpers to double its advantage early in the final frame.
Digging their heels in, the Eagles got 3-pointers from Trell English-Lurry and Alexis Brown on back-to-back possessions. Patrice Butler (12 points) brought the Eagles within a point with a free throw and gave them the lead - completing a 9-0 run - at the 3:36 mark.
“We came out of halftime a bit better tonight. So there’s some improvement.” Drown said. “We battled to come back late. We just didn’t have the consistency.”
But that’s where the fun stopped for the Eagles.
Erin Autio (11 points) hit a jumper to retake the lead for the Jaguars with 3:12 to play. Autio turned an offensive rebound into a layup on the Jags’ next possession.
Angel McGowan - who led the Eagles with 14 points - sank one of two free throws to pull back within two points before South Alabama’s offensive rebounding struck again. On the Jags’ ensuing possession, the Eagle defense forced a pair of wayward shots, only to be outfought for the rebound by a USA player and eventually leading to a Chyna Ellis layup.
“They were all over the offensive glass,” Drown said. “We turned them over 23 times and they shot 5-of-27 from (behind the arc). If you’d have told me those stats, I say we win. But 19 offensive rebounds did a lot to hurt us.”
South Alabama was led in scoring by Camryn London’s 17 points. It was London who put the nail in the Eagles’ coffin when - following a GS miss - London connected on a layup and converted the 3-point play after being fouled to make it a 51-44 Jaguar lead with just 47 seconds to play.
Aside from McGowan and Butler, the rest of the Eagles struggled to get anything going offensively. No other Georgia Southern player notched more than five points and the team - minus the duo of McGowan and Butler - combined to shoot just 8-of-33 from the field.
The road doesn’t get any easier for the Eagles.
Georgia Southern has a quick turnaround before hosting Troy Saturday afternoon. The Trojans are the defending conference champions and will come to Statesboro as the Sun Belt’s highest scoring team and a favorite to repeat as conference champs.
“I watched some tape on them yesterday,” Drown said. “They’re a scary bunch. They average 19 offensive rebounds per game. We need to execute much better offensively and we need to be prepared to play our best for 40 minutes.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m., with the Georgia Southern and Troy men’s teams slated to play on the back end of the doubleheader.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.