The men’s basketball team gears up for Sun Belt play

Marqus Williams

The Georgia Southern Men’s basketball team has had an up and down season as they prepare for the bulk of conference play. They are the youngest team in the country, playing mostly freshman and sophomores while having just one senior on the roster. They are a group that has had to mature sooner rather than later in order to gain some momentum heading into the most important part of the season.

They enter the spring semester at 5-9 overall (1-3 Sun Belt) after just winning their first conference game in overtime against the Troy Trojans 93-88.

“Now that we can get back as we understand how hard we have to practice and everything else, it helps the guys and when you win a game there’s more enthusiasm in getting back to work” said head coach Mark Byington.

The Eagles are currently ranked 9th out of 11 teams in the conference as they need to at least be in the top eight in order to make it in the Sun Belt tournament and have a chance to place a bid in the NCAA tournament.

The Eagles have the opportunity to make a run in the Sun Belt as the rest of their opponents in the month of January have a combined record of 46-40, with the toughest opponents being Arkansas Little Rock 14-1(4-0) and rival Georgia State 10-3(3-1.) Both of these contests are away from home where the Eagles haven’t been as productive. The month of January will test the Eagles on how far they have come as a team and how much they can separate themselves from other teams in the middle of the pack in the conference.

The Eagles will have to rely on freshmen Tookie Brown and Ike Smith and sophomore Mike Hughes along with a good supporting cast to lift them to the next level. Brown is sixth in the conference in scoring averaging 17.1 points per game and tied for sixth in assists with 3.5 per game. Smith is 17th in the conference in points per game averaging 12.5 and Hughes is 20th averaging 11.5 per game.

A few key factors in the Eagles success going down the stretch will be finding a defensive identity and how the team holds up from the wear and tear of conference play. Another factor is improving at rebounding and finding that “spark” when adversity hits.

With all the inexperience the Eagles have, they are bound to get better as the season progresses. But finding a true identity for their team will help them go a long way in the Sun Belt this season.