On a day when Hanner Fieldhouse said goodbye to six seniors, Georgia Southern said hello to a first round bye through next week’s Sun Belt Conference tournament.
Jake Allsmiller made sure the nets at Hanner will remember him for years to come as he connected on 8-of-11 from behind the arc and All-Sun Belt guard Tookie Brown led all scorers with 28 as the Eagles claimed a critical 89-83 victory over Troy Saturday evening.
“This was a huge game and we got some great efforts by guys like Jake,” GS coach Mark Byington said. “These last few games, we’ve had to fight through adversity. I think it has made us a better team and I think we’re playing some of our best basketball right when we want to be.”
Similar to its win over South Alabama on Thurday, Georgia Southern (20-11, 11-7 Sun Belt) went to work early. A small Troy lead was erased in the opening minutes and the Eagles never let the Trojans (15-16, 9-9) pull even again.
Much of that early spurt was due to Allsmiller. The senior guard missed his first 3-point attempt of the day, but hit on each of his next four during the first half. He matched that with another four triples in the second half to help the Eagles stay out in front and he is now just seven 3’s shy of the school’s all-time record for a career.
“It’s a night I’m going to remember for a long time,” Allsmiller said. “I fell in love with this school and I love this gym. To be able to do this in my last game with my family and friends here is just something really special.”
The sentiment of Senior Day was put on hold for the final 10 minutes as Troy refused to go away. A 16-point Eagle lead was trimmed to seven by halftime, ballooned back into double-digits early in the second half, but fell to as little as three in the waning minutes.
Wesley Person (14 points) struggled early in the game, but hit consecutive 3’s to pull Troy within three points with less than two minutes to go. Georgia Southern ran down the shot clock on its next possession and Mike Hughes (9 points) was trapped in a corner with no shot and little time.
Hughes flipped a pass to Brown with two seconds left on the shot clock, but Brown couldn’t catch it clean. He corralled the ball with one hand and spun around while heaving up a prayer from 30 feet.
It went through as clean as any of Allsmiller's sniper shots during the night.
“It didn’t surprise me,” Byington half-joked. “It’s Tookie. He does some special things. He can make those unbelievable plays.”
Brown’s miracle 3 gave the Eagles some breathing room and Troy wasn’t able to make it a one-possession game again.
WIth the win, Georgia Southern clinched the No. 3 seed in next week’s Sun Belt tournament, to be played in New Orleans. The Eagles will get a bye through Wednesday’s opening round and will play either sixth-seeded UL Monroe (15-14, 9-9) or No. 11 Arkansas State (11-20, 6-12) on Friday at 8:30 p.m.