Fresh off a win over Arkansas State, Georgia Southern (13-15, 9-8) has given itself a chance to finish the regular season 5th place if they defeat Georgia State this weekend.
The Eagles defeated the Red Wolves 84-76 behind senior Patrice Butler’s 28 points (11/22) and seven rebounds. Fellow senior Angel McGowan also grabbed seven boards to go along with 20 points (6/12).
The Eagles will look to win their final regular season game of the season when they travel to Atlanta, to face the Georgia State Panthers. Earlier in the season, Georgia State escaped Hanner Fieldhouse with a nail-biting 58-54 win. That was the first conference game for both teams—a lot has changed since that New Year’s Eve matchup.
Georgia Southern turned a disappointing 4-8 start to the regular season, into their best campaign since joining the Sun Belt Conference. After tying for the worst record during their inaugural Sun Belt season, and ending 2016 solely in last place, the Eagles will not finish worse than their current 6th place spot. Should they fall to Georgia State on Saturday, the Eagles will finish conference play at .500.
The Panthers are coming off a loss to newly-crowned Sun Belt regular season champions Arkansas-Little Rock, in which they were outrebounded 41-29. If the Eagles can win the rebounding battle, it could go a long way in determining whether they leave Atlanta with a victory or not.
In the first matchup of the season, Georgia State rode Tiffany Holston’s 17 rebound performance to victory. However, she recorded just four rebounds in their loss to Little Rock. Angel McGowan was the only Eagle to hit double figures in scoring (14) when the Panthers visited Statesboro.
Patrice Butler mustered just three points, an anomaly for the consistent senior. But just as Georgia State can’t count on Butler having another off game, Georgia Southern can’t expect Holston to have another four rebound outing.
The Sun Belt Tournament begins on March 7th inside of New Orleans’s Lakefront Arena. Sitting at 5th place is Louisiana-Lafayette (16-9, 10-6), who finishes their regular season against Texas State and UT-Arlington. Both defeated the Ragin’ Cajuns in January. This will be Georgia Southern’s first appearance in the tournament, and they will either be a 5th or 6th seed.
Tipoff against Georgia State is at 12 p.m. on Saturday. The game will be available on ESPN3.