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Pack the fieldhouse this hoops season


November 30, 2017

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Hanner Fieldhouse get ready, because it is time for a fun and exciting four months. That’s right, basketball is here, and after the football season it has been, it will be nice to see the Eagles fly around on the hardwood. Quite honestly, basketball has been my favorite sport to be in the front row watching, especially at Georgia Southern, because of the atmosphere behind the game.

 

            Now, I have been quite fortunate in my timing, as my freshman year coincided with the freshman season of both Jake Allsmiller and Mike Hughes, which as some of you may recall ended with a trip to the Sun Belt championship game. Needless to say, basketball has been exciting my entire tenure here in Statesboro. However, I do want to cover both men’s and women’s teams, including what talent we bring to the court, as well as whom the Eagles will face this year. So without further adieu, let’s dive into the details!

 

Women’s Basketball

 

The Lady Eagles are a young team this year, so there are a lot of new and fresh faces to acquaint ourselves with. A couple of faces we will see that we are all familiar with are Alexis Brown and Sierra Butler. Sierra Butler returns after being fourth on the team in scoring (5.3 PPG), and second on the team in rebounding (5.8 RPG) last year. The rebounding is something I look forward to having back, as Butler alone accumulated over 15 percent of the entire Eagle rebounding output last year. As for Alexis Brown, I know last year she was known as “Tookie’s Sister,” however, I have a strong feeling that she is going to be a strong anchor for the team this year, putting her and Tookie in a position to both be the studs. Brown was third in scoring (6.7 PPG) and second in steals (30) last season, and I really am optimistic about her role as a starter this year. Another couple of key players for the Eagles are Alexis Foulks and Amira Atwater. Foulks started in just seven games last season, but played a key role in the early games for Georgia Southern, leading the team in minutes against Fort Valley State in the exhibition. Atwater only started in eight games, and averaged just over 14 minutes a game, but was second in assists (58) among the entire team, so she loves to spread the ball around.

 

            Looking ahead at the Lady Eagles’ schedule, it is very similar to last year with common non-conference opponents and the typical conference schedule, but I want to highlight a few of the opponents.

 

Alabama: We want Bama? Well we got them. Alabama will be rolling into Statesboro to take on the Lady Eagles. The Tide are definitely a formidable opponent, as they made a deep run in the Women’s NIT last year, and are looking to have another successful year.

 

IUPUI: Georgia Southern plays host to a second Women's NIT in IUPUI. They finished 62 in the women's RPI, which is quite respectable. IUPUI has reached the WNIT 4 out of 5 years, so they are no stranger to postseason.

 

UT-Arlington: UTA is primed and ready to dethrone Troy this year, as they are led by two of the Preseason Sun Belt First Team players in Rebekah VanDijk and Cierra Johnson. Though Troy has been the league champions two years in a row, UTA is in the same boat as Georgia Southern Men’s team: they have been building and this is their year. The Lady Eagles face UTA Twice, once in Arlington and once in Statesboro.

 

Overall, it should be an interesting year for the Lady Eagles, as they return some players, but also are bringing some youth to the floor, but it will be fun to watch.

 

Note: At the time of writing Women’s Basketball was 1-1 with a win over Coastal College and a loss to NC A&T

 

Men's Basketball

 

The Eagles are the true definition of “High-Flying.” With all five starters returning, and 94 percent of the points scored last year returning, this year should be one to remember. Mike Hughes and Jake Allsmiller are seniors, with Ike Smith and Tookie Brown beginning their junior campaign. To elaborate on how prolific this team should be, here are some stats to wow you.

 

Tookie Brown: 17.1 PPG (2nd in Sun Belt)

Ike Smith: 19.6 PPG (1st in Sun Belt)

Mike Hughes: 10.6 PPG

Jake Allsmiller: 7.8 PPG

 

Jake Allsmiller: 4th in Sun Belt in 3PT

 

Tookie Brown: 4th in Sun Belt in Steals, 4th in Assists, 1st in Free Throws Made

 

Montae Glenn: 4th in Sun Belt in Offensive Rebounds

 

Ike Smith: 1st in Sun Belt in FG %

 

With multiple people up in the top of the Sun Belt statistics, it is sure to be a fantastic year under one caveat. The big factor is IF the Eagles can rebound. Though they were pretty good at shooting last year, their downfall was cleaning the glass and following up. I say with full confidence, there is not a team on the schedule we can't beat if we rebound. That being said, let's take a look at some of the foes the Eagles face.

 

Cal State Bakersfield: The Eagles will face the Roadrunners twice this season, once in Statesboro an once in Bakersfield. At the time of writing, the Eagles had already thwarted CSUB 77-53 in Hanner Fieldhouse. The offense looked amazing, and there was never a doubt who looked better on the floor. The reason I highlight this team is their postseason resume. CSUB has been in the NIT or NCAA the past three years, and is usually a factor every March in the Big West. This is a great win for Southern’s resume, and sits up there quite nicely with the win over Wake Forest.

 


East Tennessee State: ETSU has been a solid force in Georgia Southern’s old stomping grounds that is the Southern Conference. Coming off a SoCon championship and a trip to the NCAA tournament, the Bucs are a good team, and it will be no easy test when the Eagles travel to Johnson City in December.

 

UT-Arlington: UTA returns as the reigning Sun Belt regular season champions, and quite honestly got the short end of the stick by not receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA. However, they did make a run in the NIT, falling in the quarterfinals to previously mentioned Cal State Bakersfield. UTA is the preseason favorite for the Sun Belt, garnering 9 of the 12 first place votes (one of the three votes was UTA’s vote, and could not be cast for them). They return a lot from the team last year, and I honestly believe that these two teams will be meeting in New Orleans on Selection Sunday.

 

Note: At the time of writing, Georgia Southern was 2-0 with wins over Wake Forest and Cal State Bakersfield.

 

I could sit here and write about each team all day, how they stack up on paper, even bring in Sabermetrics or something of the like, but at the end of the day, each game has to be played. My best advice for those of you looking for answers to this season is to “Show up, because we are gonna show out!” (Thanks Coach Lunsford for that quote).

 

The Georgia Southern men’s and women’s basketball squads are good. But to be great they need all of us to pack Hanner Fieldhouse, get rowdy, and rally behind them. Basketball is much more fun when the seats are filled, and there is no place tougher to play than a sold-out Hanner Fieldhouse! So be sure to GATA this winter (Get After That Attendance)!




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