Right before tip-off of Friday night’s Sun Belt quarterfinal against ULM, it was announced that Georgia Southern would be without junior center Montae Glenn.
But senior Coye Simmons stepped right in and collected eight points and two rebounds in the first half which gave the Eagles their first lead in a 63-55 victory.
“I feel bad for Montae,” head coach Mark Byington said. “But what a great opportunity for Coye.”
In a game that was nearly as stressful as the two team’s first meeting, GS wasn’t able to really pull away from ULM until the final minutes.
When ULM won the opening tip-off and second leading scoring Sam McDaniel went right down and scored within the first 15 seconds, it looked like it’d be a long night.
However, that’d be just one of two leads in the game for the Warhawks.
The Eagles were able to win in a game that had stars Jake Allsmiller, Tookie Brown and Mike Hughes relatively silent for 33 minutes of the game.
And GS still maintained a lead for much of the game. The bench did just enough to keep the Eagles’ heads above water, with Quan Jackson leading the charge with seven points.
GS also just played a smart defensive game. They only put ULM on the free throw line three times and had four blocks, without their tallest active player on the court.
“The way we started the game with our defensive intensity carried us through the game,” Byington said. “We’ll enjoy this for another five minutes then it’s on to tomorrow.”
Now, the Eagles must quickly compose themselves to take on rival Georgia State for the third time of the season.
In what was probably the most definitive, invigorating win for GS Athletics since the Florida game, the Eagles took care of the Panthers on Feb. 16 85-80 in front of a sold out Hanner Fieldhouse.
For round three of what Byington referred to as “the best rivalry in the state of Georgia”, the Eagles won’t have the fans of Hanner behind them.
They also won’t have Montae Glenn who averaged 10 rebounds in the two games against the Panthers.
But, Byington did a fantastic job of rotating O’Connell and Simmons Friday night, allowing just 10 points in the paint.
The Eagles will need more consistent offense from Allsmiller and Brown who combined for just 4-14 from the field against ULM.
Tip-off against Georgia State is set for 3:00 p.m. ET from Lakefront Arena in New Orleans. The game will be available on ESPN3.
McClain Baxley, The George-Anne Sports Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org