Georgia Southern concludes nonconference play with 81-38 loss to UGA

Junior guard Amira Atwater scored two points and had two steals in a losing effort to the University of Georgia.

McClain Baxley

The Georgia Southern women’s basketball team came into Friday’s game against the University of Georgia  having won three in a row, averaging 67 points per game. That streak was halted as the Eagles fell 81-38 to the Bulldogs in Stegeman Coliseum.

GS hadn’t beaten UGA since 1981, which meant 21 straight losses to their in-state foe from Athens. Junior captain Alexis Brown knew it was going to be an uphill battle from the get go.

“They put their shoes on just like we put our shoes on and we are in the same division,” Brown said. “We just had to come out and compete.”

The Eagles fell behind early, but a three pointer from junior forward Nakol Franks gave GS some life and make it a one point game. Back and forth good defense kept the game close for a few minutes, causing frustration for the home team.

Down by four, Franks went down hard on defense and the third leading scorer headed to the locker room.

“She went into concussion protocol,” Head Coach Kip Drown said. “We aren’t ever going to put a kid into risk.”

With Franks out, it took the Eagles to find any sort of offense for awhile. UGA took advantage, surging out to a 18-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The turnovers and missed shots for the visitors extended UGA’s lead and wasn’t in the game plan for Drown’s team.

“We knew Georgia was an outstanding team and they were really big inside,” Drown said. “We wanted to match the physicalness and I thought in the first half we really did that.”

UGA had the size advantage over GS and was using it. Between 6-foot-3 Caliya Robinson and 6-foot-6 Jenna Staiti, the Eagles had to rely more on locking down the perimeter.

With six minutes left in the first half, junior guard Amira Atwater resorted to her niftiness and threw a move in the paint on Staiti. The shot didn’t fall and in the blink of an eye, the Bulldogs were making two points of their own at the other end.

The Eagles were able to keep the halftime deficit at 15, but an easy 21-5 run from UGA put the game out of reach.

“It got away from 15 to like 25 quick,” Drown said. “We lost some defensive intensity in the second half.”

The lack of scoring from GS partly fell on UGA’s defensive press. From the time the Eagles checked the ball in, two Bulldogs were in the front court until the end of the possession.

 

{{tncms-inline account=”Captain” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">GS just suffered a shot clock violation. The Bulldogs' press has really been getting to the Eagles. UGA leads 46-21 with 6:48 in the third quarter.</p>— Captain (@McclainBaxley) <a href="https://twitter.com/McclainBaxley/status/1076194611713003520?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 21, 2018</a></blockquote>” id=”https://twitter.com/McclainBaxley/status/1076194611713003520″ type=”twitter”}}

“They pressured the ball on the perimeter do it made it harder to pass it in,” Brown said. “So our post players on their offensive side they just lobbed it to their bigs who were able to finish.”

Staiti stole the ball one last time and UGA was able to dribble the ball out to end GS’ win streak.

One of the positives from the second half drubbing was the play of redshirt-freshman Alicia Owens. Owens was tasked with keeping former Georgia Gatorade High School Player of the Year Staiti in check. She did that for the most part and was also able to finish with seven points and a career-high 19 minutes.

“Owens was a big time scorer in Kentucky so she knows how to finish,” Drown said. “The big thing for her is just to freeze people with that quick move and get up. She did that two or three times. To be able to do what she did inside today will help her as she continues to grow as a player.”

With conference play behind them, the Eagles stand at 5-6 and have won 5 of their last 8. Drown compared UGA’s play to Sun Belt conference leaders Arkansas-Little Rock and Troy and felt that the test was a great way to begin playing with that kind of intensity.

“I’m not pleased with the final today, but for us it’s going to be a learning experience,” Drown said. “We’re going to fix the things we didn’t do too well and improve on it.”

The Eagles will open Sun Belt play Jan. 3 at home against Texas State. Brown is confident in the team’s ability to perform well in conference play.

“I think that we’re capable of winning the Sun Belt championship as long as we play a full 40 minutes,” Brown said. “[We] have to compete and play hard because when we don’t, we get down and dig ourselves into a hole.”

McClain Baxley, The George-Anne Daily Managing Editor, [email protected]