While most students took the road trip home after finals week, the Georgia Southern basketball team went on a different kind of road trip to face off against the defending national champions, the Duke Blue Devils. The Eagles were able to hang around at the beginning but ultimately fell, 99-65.
The Eagles opened the game with a quick defensive rebound, a steal, and a layup to grab the first points of the game. Duke responded quickly with a three pointer that was countered by a three by sophomore guard Mike Hughes. The Devils would then go on a seven point run before the Eagles were able to pick up another bucket. Both squads would continue to trade baskets, the Eagles struggling to breach the seven point barrier.
With under twelve minutes in the first half Georgia Southern cut the lead to two with help of a three pointer from freshman guard Tookie Brown. Duke quickly responded with a 9-2 run that gave them even more separation from the Eagles. Early fouls put the Blue Devils into bonus territory with just over six minutes remaining in the first half. At this point, Brown and Hughes had combined for 19 of the Eagle’s 28 points but all five of the Duke starters were fairly balanced around six to eight points each. The half ended with the Blue Devils in a commanding lead 47-32.
The second half began slowly for both teams. Eagle guard Ike Smith picked up his first bucket of the game and his team’s first points of the half in the opening two minutes. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils extended themselves to a 20 points lead and continued to press. Both Brown and sophomore guard Jake Allsmiller picked up three fouls with over 16 minutes still on the clock which caused a more conservative defensive effort. The Blue Devils continued to pile on as they extended their lead to 27 with 12 minutes remaining in the half.
With time winding down in the contest the Eagles trailed by a large deficit. However, Brown continued to play as if the game was tied up as he grabbed his third three-pointer with just under eight minutes remaining. It seemed like every time the Eagles could knock down a shot the Blue Devils would respond with two or three baskets. Duke hit a huge stride and was hitting every shot they took, and with five minutes remaining they led 83-53. The Blue Devils continued to pour it on and wound up nearly breaching the triple digits and ending the game, 99-65.
In the end, the size and athleticism of Duke was too much for the Eagles to overcome. Brown and Hughes had great individual performances but too many shots were missed and the Blue Devils were far too accurate to keep up. The game was a great learning experience for Georgia Southern as likely the best team they will face all season.