More than half the season still remains in the Sun Belt Conference schedule, but for the Georgia Southern men and women, it’s time to kick things into gear if they want to extend their participation beyond the regular season.
Both Eagle squads took a big step toward improvement Monday night.
Tested already by a blizzard-inspired extended layover in the Blue Ridge Mountains that postponed what should have been a pair of Saturday games, both squads claimed wins over Appalachian State.
The GSU women notched their second straight victory, outscoring the Mountaineers in every period but the fourth and staying comfortably in front down the stretch.
The same couldn’t be said for the GSU men, as they needed a furious comeback and an answered prayer.
Despite leading by double digits late in the first half, Georgia Southern surrendered a 14-0 run spanning through halftime that kept the Mountaineers in front throughout the second half.
With three players having fouled out and many more in foul trouble, the Eagles fired off a desperate charge over the final 90 seconds. Mike Hughes capped the miracle comeback, connecting — while being fouled — from 35 feet to tie the game with 0.8 second to play. He drained the ensuing free throw to allow the Eagles to escape with a 101-100 win.
“I didn’t even see (the 3-pointer) go through,” Hughes said. “I just hit the ground and heard the whistle. On the free throw, my teammates kept my head in the game. It was just like all the shots we make in practice.”
Little Rock leading the way
While the GSU men gave themselves some breathing room with their improbable win, they’re still far from the top of the Sun Belt standings. The Eagles, 7-11 overall, are 3-5 in the Sun Belt.Little Rock has raced out to the front of the pack with a 17-2 overall mark. The Trojans also hold a 1.5-game lead in the conference standings after a win over UT-Arlington over the weekend, giving them prime position as the Sun Belt schedule nears its midway point.
“Our team has come together, and they deserve credit for buying into what we’re doing,” Little Rock coach Chris Beard said. “We need to keep meeting the challenges. It’s a great league. Anybody can beat anybody on any night.”
UT-Arlington remains in second, but has lost leading scorer Kevin Hervey for the season with a torn ACL. That seems to leave a gaping hole for the race to the top tier of the standings as Georgia State, Arkansas State and UL Lafayette are all primed to move past UT-Arlington if the Mavericks can’t maintain their strong performance after the loss of Hervey.
The Georgia Southern women are 6-11 on the season and 3-5 in conference play, Arkansas State leads the pack with an 8-0 league record, one game in front of ULL. The Red Wolves have won eight straight games.
Both Georgia Southern teams are on four-game road swing, the longest of the season. The trip continues tonight at Little Rock and ends Saturday at Arkansas State.