Eagles defeat Louisiana after huge comeback and advance to conference quarterfinals

Amanda Arnold

The Georgia Southern men’s basketball team defeated Louisiana, 82-81, in the second round of the Sun Belt Tournament at home on Monday after a valiant and collaborative comeback.

“One of the things, special things, about the senior class is their ability to respond when things are bad, when things aren’t going good,” Head Coach Mark Byington said. “And after the last game they responded well…they’re built that way.”

The Eagles trailed by as much as 16 points in the second half, but after three minutes of unanswered Eagle scoring, the crowd and momentum of the arena shifted and a comeback was on the horizon. 

A clutch three pointer by redshirt-junior Quan Jackson tied the game with about three minutes remaining and GS took the lead for the first time since the beginning of the game. His shot brought Hanner Fieldhouse to their feet and the fans never sat back down.

“They were as loud as Hanner has been in awhile,” Senior guard Ike Smith said. “We kind of fed off the crowd… When you see the crowd and how they were tonight, you see what can happen.”

In the second half, GS came out of the locker room playing very sluggishly. The team went on a seven minute scoring drought and could not get in sync with each other. Once GS figured out that driving straight to the basket would be the most effective way to come out on top, the game plan visibly changed with about eight minutes remaining. Layup after layup was made and UL went on a scoring drought. This drought would cost them the ticket to the tournament quarterfinals.

More aggressive GS defense stopped UL offensive leader Jalen Johnson in the second period and held him to three points, which was imperative, since he went into the half with 16.

The game began with a hot streak from senior forward Isaiah Crawley. He stormed down the court on three separate occasions for three unanswered layups, but the offense slowed down when the Ragin’ Cajuns adjusted to his playing style. 

About ten minutes into the first half, Louisiana went on a 12-2 run over the course of about two minutes, mostly from Johnson, and GS could not find a way to keep up.

“We were down a bunch in the first half too and we came back,” Byington said. “We just had to settle and we missed a couple layups, couple things close to the rim, and a couple free throws… That’s going to really test you and see where you are as a team, when things are going really, really bad.”

The game was truly a team effort, as five Eagles scored in double digits. Leading the pack was Jackson’s 16 point performance, closely followed by sophomore guard Calvin Wishart’s 15.

Crawley led the team with eight rebounds, but ran into some foul trouble towards the end.

With the victory, GS will travel to Atlanta to play rival Georgia State, who is the fourth seed in the tournament. The game can be viewed on ESPN+ and 7 p.m.

Byington emphasized that the team is focused and won’t be tired to play on Wednesday, Though it is a quick turnaround, senior guard David-Lee Jones echoed his sentiments.

“That game fired me up,” Jones said. “I still feel like playing.”

Amanda Arnold, The George-Anne Managing Sports Editor, gasports@georgiasouthern.edu