The Georgia Southern Eagles ended a four-game home stand in style and gained some much-needed ground in the Sun Belt Conference standings as they claimed a 66-51 victory over UL Monroe Saturday evening at Hanner Fieldhouse.
Mike Hughes continued his hot play of late, leading the Eagles with 15 points. Ike Smith scored 14 and Tookie Brown scored 12 while eight different GSU players notched points.
The cliché goes that defense wins championships. There was nothing of significant value to be won Saturday, but a great defensive effort was key to the Eagles’ success.
The Warhawks (6-11, 2-4 Sun Belt) hit on just 31 percent of their shots. Faced with a size disadvantage, the Eagles (6-10, 2-4) were nearly even in rebounds, 39-38, and Georgia Southern racked up 17 points off of 13 turnovers.
“The defensive intensity stood out from the start,” GSU coach Mark Byington said. “It reminded me of last year. Our offense got in a rhythm late, but wasn’t great all night. It was our defense that stayed consistent and won us this game.”
For the second time in three games, Jake Allsmiller got the ball rolling for GSU. Allsmiller opened the game with a 3 and connected on a short jumper to give the Eagles an early advantage.
Georgia Southern nursed a small lead through much of the first half before Mike Hughes took over. Hughes — who led the Eagles with 15 points — was fouled on a 3-pointer with 48 seconds to go in the first half and converted the four-point play. He drilled another 3 just seconds later to stake GSU to a 32-21 halftime advantage.
“I just hit a couple of shots,” Hughes said. “We got the ball and guys did a good job of driving and passing out to open up shots outside. I wasn’t really thinking about it. They just went in.”
UL Monroe pulled close at times in the second half, but the Eagles were always waiting to answer back.
With 10:58 to play, a 3 by Majok Deng (14 points) was followed by a dunk and a 3 from Justin Roberson (20 points), getting ULM to within 43-39. On the ensuing Eagle possession, Smith drove hard to the rim, rising up for a one-handed jam while drawing a foul and then converting the three-point play.
Devonte Boykins and Brown each poured in a 3-pointer and the GSU lead was quickly back to double-digits.
Boykins put the exclamation mark on the night, throwing down a two-handed dunk on a fastbreak as the Eagles pulled away late.
“I think we’re breaking through right now,” Byington said. “We’ve had our moments, and now I think we’re seeing our young team come around.
“We stayed focused and made big plays throughout the game. That’s what it takes to win games in this league.”
It will be another quick turnaround for the Eagles as they’ll have just two days of rest before their next conference game. On Tuesday, Georgia Southern will make the drive up to Atlanta to take on the defending Sun Belt champions from Georgia State.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.
Georgia Southern AMR
ULM’s Daja Chase hit a runner with 0.7 seconds left on the clock, and Alayshia Hunter stole the inbounds pass on Georgia Southern’s final possession to lift the Warhawks to a 50-49 Sun Belt Conference women’s basketball victory over the Eagles Saturday afternoon in Hanner Fieldhouse.
Patrice Butler hit a pair of free throws to put Georgia Southern on top 49-48 with 1:01 to play. Each team missed on a 3-point try on their next possessions, and ULM had the ball with 15 seconds to play. Eagle Trellanie English-Lurry blocked Chelsea Tieuel’s 3-point try, but Ashley Aune got the rebound in a scramble and fed Chase, who drove to the basket, hit the runner and was fouled.
Chase missed the free throw, Angel McGowan got the rebound for Georgia Southern, and the Eagles called timeout with 0.5 seconds left to advance the ball. Georgia Southern tried to lob it to a cutting Butler, but Hunter stepped in front for the interception, sealing the win.
Patrice Butler scored 17 points with nine rebounds to lead Georgia Southern (4-11, 1-5), and Alexis Sams shot 4 of 7 from the floor, scoring 11 points. McGowan finished with seven points, five rebounds and four assists.
Tieuel led ULM (7-8, 1-5) with 20 points to go along with five rebounds, while Chase scored 12 points with a team-high nine rebounds.
ULM trailed by seven points early in the fourth, but netted seven straight points to tie the score 43-43 with 4:13 to go, and the game saw three ties and three lead changes the rest of the way. ULM shot 6 for 14 in the final period, while the Eagles made 3 of 12.
ULM jumped out to a 12-2 lead as Tieuel scored six of the team’s first 15 points. A three-pointer by Sams and two layups by Butler in the second period was enough to give the Eagles the momentum they needed to tie the game with 1:32 left on the clock. One shot by Butler and four shots by McGowan from the charity stripe pushed the Eagles to a 25-20 lead at the end of the first half. The Eagles continued to lead throughout the third period, ending the frame with a 37-33 advantage over the Warhawks heading into the fourth.
“It was a disappointing loss," GSU coach Kip Drown said. "When you’re trying to build a program, you’re really trying to find a lot of positives and that would have been a nice one to have gotten today. I was proud of our kids; I thought we made some improvements in some areas, and I thought we competed real hard. It came down to they made a play at the end and we didn’t, and they came out with the win.”