Georgia Southern Holds Off Western Carolina 81-76
STATESBORO, Ga. - On paper, it didn't look to be much of a matchup, Western Carolina led the North Division of the Southern Conference and held the top spots in the league in offense and field goal percentage defense. Georgia Southern was looking for its first win since November and was mired at the bottom of several statistical categories. That's why the game is played. The Eagles came out on top, 81-76, breaking a nine-game winless streak and getting its first conference win since January 24, 2009.
Junior guard Willie Powers III (Gainesville, Fla.) scored Georgia Southern's final seven points in the last 2:11 of the game and was the high scorer for the game with 19 points. Senior guard Antonio Hanson had the hot hand in the first half, hitting six three pointers for 18 points. Junior forward Rory Spencer (Atlanta, Ga.) went 7-8 from the floor for 18 points, 12 coming in the second period. Johntavious Rucker (Atlanta, Ga.) was the top rebounder for the seventh time this season with five. Four Catamounts scored in double figures. Kendall Russell led WCU in both scoring and rebounding with 18 points and a game-high eight rebounds. Brandon Giles added 13 and Jake Robinson had 12. Mike Williams scored all 10 of his points in the second half.
The Eagles may not have played their best basketball in the last five minutes of the game on Saturday afternoon, but for the first time, their best efforts came through in the final five minutes. With Western Carolina running off an 8-2 run over 81 seconds with 3:37 left in the game, it cut a comfortable Eagle lead to one point 73-72. A double technical provided some drama, but no additional free throws at the 2:28 mark. Powers hit one of two free throws, 75-73, GSU, before WCU's Kendall Russell stepped to the line, hitting two free throws and tying the score at 75 with 1:38 remaining in the game.
Georgia Southern did not relinquish the lead as Mutombo bumped Powers on the inbound play to send him to the free throw line again and Powers hit both free throws for a 77-75 advantage. Russell hit one free throw to finish the scoring for Western Carolina A layup with 30 seconds left in the ballgame, and two more free throws by Powers closed out the game at 81-76.
"We played with an abundance of passion and effort and I am most impressed that our defensive principles finally carried over to live competition for 40 minutes," said Eagles Head Coach Charlton Young. "Even when the game got tight, all of our guys kept their poise and executed on both ends of the floor."
Both teams were shooting well from the floor in the first half, GSU at 56 percent and WCU at 52 percent, but both teams already had a combined 29 turnovers, finishing with 54. Western Carolina came right out after the half with five quick points off a layup and then steal by Richie Gordon, 39-38, Georgia Southern. Hitting four straight free throws from freshman forward Cameron Baskerville (Marietta, Ga.) and Spencer, then getting a layup from Spencer put the Eagles back up on top by seven, 45-38.
Almost three minutes went by before GSU hit another basket with the Catamounts getting a couple of easy baskets. Trading baskets and misses going up and down the court, the Eagles had a nine-point lead, the largest of the second half, off a Krzysztof Janiszewski (Dzierzoniow, Poland) jump hook at the 9:06 mark. The margin stayed consistent at seven-to-eight points until the last five minutes of the game.
"Western Carolina is quality team and playing the way we did against them shows our potential," Young said. "We defended really well today and we also did a good job of flowing into our secondary breaks. That was a big reason we were able to score 81 points."
The Catamounts built a 6-0 lead to start the game, but Eagles senior guard Antonio Hanson (Ft. Worth, Texas) hit three straight three-pointers to tie the game at 9-9 at 16:51. Western Carolina jumped back out a 13-9 advantage off jumpers in the lane by Jake Robinson and Adrian Gailliard before a basket by Baskerville and another three from Hanson gave the Eagles their first lead of the game. WCU's redshirt-sophomore Harouna Mutombo took a Gaillard pass and laid it in and then hit a jumper to put the score at 17-14, WCU.
Over the next five and a half minutes, Georgia Southern would outscore Western Carolina 18-0 behind three field goals by Spencer, two treys by Hanson and baskets by Antoine Johnson (Atlanta, Ga.) and Johntavious Rucker (Decatur, Ga.) to take a 35-17 lead. The Catamounts, not ready to go quietly, had three field goals and two free throws by Giles, a couple of free throws by Robinson and a three by Waginger to close the half with a 13-4 run. The Eagles had a three by Ben Drayton III (St. Marys, Ga.) during that time to keep a six-point halftime lead, 39-36.
The Eagles play their only two road games of January on Thursday, Jan. 14 vs. Wofford with a 7 p.m. start time and a 4 p.m. tipoff at Furman on Saturday, Jan. 16. The next Georgia Southern game at Hanner is Wednesday, January 20th at 7 p.m. when the Eagles welcome Appalachian State.
- Category: Men's Basketball
- Published on Saturday, 09 January 2010 19:07