Basketball fights through injury woes as they prepare to defeat Georgia State for the first time in two years

Amanda Arnold

For the Georgia Southern men’s basketball team, Saturday’s home game against rival Georgia State is more than just the biggest home game of the year. It’s about getting revenge on the team that won the conference last season who would go on to the NCAA Tournament. It’s about beating the team that defeated them twice last season…

The game is crucial to both teams, as both sides hold a 6-3 conference record. They are tied for second place in the East behind Little Rock.

“I feel like we’re still a work in progress and we’re not where we need to be,” Head Coach Mark Byington said. “Hopefully we’re one of those teams that has a great last week in January and pushes through February and I think we have the potential to do that.”

The last time redshirt-guard Ike Smith played the Panthers was in 2018. He scored 16 points in the game and the loss was heartbreaking. It was the conference semi-final game in New Orleans and the Eagles were fighting for a title. They fell short and it was surely a fight to remember.

Both GS and GSU went 1-1 in last weekend’s pair of conference games in Alabama and hope to break this streak and earn a victory point in the rivalry series.

GS has been averaging around 76 points a game and are led by Smith and sophomore guard Elijah McCadden. The lineup has seen frequent changes this season due to injury and consistency has been an ongoing issue.

“We’ve had a number of guys get hurt and miss games,” Byington said. “Isaiah Crawley, I think, is one of the best players in this league and he missed four games. We’ve had three games this year where we’ve only seven scholarship players available…As soon as we start getting some momentum, some different things happen.”

Georgia State holds a 13-6 record against GS in the past 19 meetings, but GS has a 27-6 record at home.

The game is expected to be packed and students are advised to arrive early for the 2 p.m. women’s game prior to men’s tip-off around approximately 5 p.m. Doors will open at 1 p.m. and the arena will not be cleared out before the men’s game.

Morris Bank is sponsoring the “white out” and once capacity is reached, the fire marshal will close the doors for good. No re-entry will be allowed.

Amanda Arnold, The George-Anne Managing Sports Editor, [email protected]