Over four-thousand fans packed Hanner Fieldhouse on Thursday night to watch Georgia Southern defeat Georgia State University 58-54.
Georgia State was ahead on the scoreboard for most of the game, always managing to stay ahead of GSU by just two or three points. At halftime, the Eagles trailed by just six points. In the second half of the game, the Panthers continued to outplay the Eagles’ defense, putting them ahead 39-30.
Head coach Mark Byington felt that the game against Ga. State could have gone either way.
“They’re a very good team, and they guarded us well. We had trouble making shots,” Byington said. “The game could have gone either way. We were able to just make enough plays at the end, but the game could have flipped either way.”
Curtis Diamond, Jelani Hewitt and Mike Hughes all managed to sink three-pointers while Trent Wiedeman earned the team four more points with a pair of free throws, making the score 43-41 with less than seven minutes to go in the game. This was the Eagles first lead since early in the first half of the game.
Another three-pointer by Jake Allsmiller helped cushion the Eagles’ lead. With 3:47 left on the clock, the score was 49-44.
“Going into the second half, we just stayed calm. We stayed confident and kept shooting the ball, and the game just came to us. It’s big, but we just have to keep on rolling—we have a big game against Monroe on Saturday,” Allsmiller said.
Both teams scored on one another again before R.J. Hunter sank a three-pointer with less than two minutes to go.
Mike Hughes, whose three-pointer also helped secure the Eagles’ victory, said Coach Byington told them to stick to the game plan.
“Coming into the second half, the coach told us to just stay with it, and it all just turned out in our favor,” Hughes said.
The Eagles cannot pause to savor their victory for long, however; their next game is on Saturday evening against the team that is now ranked number two in the Sunbelt Conference.
Going into the game, Georgia Southern was ranked number one in the Sunbelt Conference while Georgia State was tied for second with University of Louisiana-Monroe. Following the Eagles narrow win over the Panthers, Georgia State fell to third in the Sunbelt rankings.
“We have to flip the page quick. We’re playing one of the top teams in the standings. We’ve had trouble sometimes getting amped up for Saturdays, so that’s what we working on with our guys because it’s going to be a very tough game on Saturday,” Byington said.
The Eagles will be back on the court Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Hanner Fieldhouse. All fans are asked to “pack the house in pink.”