3 Key SoCon Games Highlight Thursday Night's Slate

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3 Key SoCon Games Highlight Thursday Night's Slate

College of Charleston (12-5, 4-1 SoCon) at Georgia Southern (7-10, 1-3 SoCon)

Jan. 17, 2013, 7 p.m. (EST)

Statesboro, GA, Hanner Fieldhouse (5,000)

Historical Look At The Rivalry: 

Not only will Thursday night's clash between Georgia Southern mark the last regular-season Southern Conference meeting between Georgia Southern and College of Charleston at Hanner Fieldhouse. It will also mark a huge game in the Southern Conference South Division, which is especially true after Georgia Southern's 70-57 win over Davidson on Monday night that snapped a 12-game losing streak against the Wildcats.

For the Eagles and Cougars, Thursday night's clash will mark the 46th all-time meeting between the two programs, with College of Charleston holding a 27-18 all-time advantage.

Georgia Southern and College of Charleston have been longtime rivals in two conferences, first forming a rivalry when the two were members of the Trans America Athletic Conference, which became the Atlantic Sun.

The Cougars and Eagles resurrected that rivalry as Southern Conference members after the Cougars joined the league as an official member in 1998-99. Now, College of Charleston is in its swan song in the SoCon before leaving for the Colonial Athletic Association next season. 

The College of Charleston has owned the series between the two programs as of late, claiming nine of the last 10 meetings between the two programs. Georgia Southern's 64-58 win at Hanner last season snapped an eight-game winning streak by the Cougars.

Both clubs enter the matchup after high-profile wins, with Georgia Southern having knocked off Virginia Tech out of the ACC, while CofC had early-season wins over the Big 12 member Baylor and Boston College out of the ACC.

Memorable Matchup:                                                             

Georgia Southern 71, College of Charleston 68

(Jan. 9, 2006)

STATESBORO, GA—In front of nearly 3,500 fans inside the rowdy friendly confines of Hanner Fieldhouse, Georgia Southern took what would prove to be a major step towards the 2006 Southern Conference South Division regular-season title, with a 71-68 come-from-behind win over the College of Charleston, notching a seventh straight win and a 17th-straight win in front of the Hanner Hooligans.

The Eagles would find themselves behind as many as 16 points twice in the opening frame, as the Cougars held leads of 28-12 after a Dontaye Draper triple, and 32-16 after a David Lawrence jumper. 

However, Georgia Southern would chip away at the lead and finished the opening frame by going on am 11-2 run to close to within seven points, at 34-27, at the halftime break.

In the second half, the Eagles would forge their first tie of the game, at 48-48, on a basket by Will Dunn and after CofC junior forward Renardo Dickerson gave the Cougars a 50-48 lead on the ensuing CofC possession, Dunn would answer, tying the game at 50-apiece with a little less than 10 minutes left.

With 8:48 remaining in the game, Dunn would slam it home from the baseline, giving the Eagles a 52-50 lead—a lead which GSU would never relinquish.

Donte Gennie's triple would extend GSU's lead to five (55-50) and over the next few minutes, the Eagles would maintain a three-five point advantage until the Cougars trimmed it back to two (62-60) on a pair of Draper free throws with 4:13 remaining. The Cougars would get within a possession one more time with a Lawrence's second-straight dunk, making it a 71-68 game inside the final minute.

After Dwayne Foreman missed a pair of free throws for the Eagles with five seconds left, CofC guard Ryan Scott rebounded the second miss, but teammate Drew Hall would turn over the basketball to GSU forward Louis Graham, who would secure the basketball against his chest to run out the clock and secure the Eagles' program record-tying 17th-straight home win at Hanner

The Eagles were led in the contest by Southern Conference Player of the Year Elton Nesbitt, who finished with 18 points, while the Cougars got a game-high 21 points from Draper in the losing effort. 

(Research Assistance For The Above Game Was Provided By Savannah Morning News 1/10/2006)

Quick Glance At The Matchup: After Monday night's 70-57 win over Davidson in front of what was an energetic home crowd at Hanner Fieldhouse, Georgia Southern head coach Charleton Young and his Eagles have a chance to make even more ground with another home test against the College of Charleston. 

The Cougars have looked good in their past two games, getting a narrow 73-69 win over The Citadel on Monday night, while getting an 86-59 win over Chattanooga last Saturday.

The Cougars come into Thursday night's important Southern Conference clash having been very inconsistent under first-year head coach Doug Wojcik, but appear to be back on the uptick again heading into the South Division clash with the Eagles on Wednesday night.

The Cougars have wins in the non-conference over the likes of Baylor and Boston College, but have lost games to Division II Anderson and to Samford on the home floor this season. Samford had never beaten the Cougars since joining the SoCon in 2008, until beating the Cougars last week.

Leading the way for the Cougars this season has been a trio of double-figure scorers, with one of those players averaging in double figures entering Thursday night's as the reigning Southern Conference Player of the Week. 

Two of those players that average in double figures this season for the Cougars will start in the backcourt this evening, with both Andrew Lawrence (13.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 4.1 APG) and Anthony Stitt (11.9 PPG, 3.2 APG, 2.9 RPG) accounting for two of those three players averaging in double digits this season for the Cougars. 

Lawrence, of course, brings veteran leadership to that backcourt, coming off his Olympic appearance this past summer for the Great Britain National Team.

In Monday night's win against cross-town rival The Citadel, Lawrence was able to post a game-high 21 points in helping the Cougars gut out a four-point road win. He needs just 18 points on Thursday evening to reach the 1,000-point plateau.

Stitt, who was injured nearly the entire 2011-12 season, is having a season worthy of All-SoCon consideration. He currently ranks seventh in the SoCon in three-point field goal percentage (43.5%), while his 3.2 assists per game rank 10th in the league this season. He has scored in double digits in the past two games for the Cougars, including 14 points and five boards in CofC's win at The Citadel on Monday night.

Adejhi Baru (10.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG), the SoCon's reigning Player of the Week, rounds out the starting trio in the starting five averaging in double figures. Baru is the highest-rated recruit in school history, and is starting to mature into the player that had so many schools seeking his services for four years.

Baru leads the league in rebounding, and he put together three-straight double-double performances last week, including 16 points and 12 boards the last time out against The Citadel.

Baru has had to log more minutes and shoulder more of the low-post scoring load with Trent Wiedeman's (7.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG) injury. Wiedeman continues to work his way back into playing shape since his injury, and will be a key player off the bench for the Cougars on Thursday against GSU.

Joining Baru underneath the basket as starters in the frontcourt will be Willis Hall (7.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG) and Anthony Thomas (8.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG). Hall is one of the team's better shooters, connecting on 49.4 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from 3-point range. He will keep a defense honest with his ability to shoot the perimeter shot. 

Thomas started his career at Appalachian State before moving on to Hutchinson Community College in Kansas and has now matriculated back into the Southern Conference for at least a season with the Cougars.

He is one of the best athletes on the team, and one of the team's most versatile performers with his ball-handling abilities, as well as his ability to shoot the mid-range jumper. He is coming off a 10-point, four-rebound performance at The Citadel on Monday night.

Off the bench, the Cougars will look to four primary players to be part of its rotation against the Eagles, with Nori Johnson (4.8 PPG, 1.8 RPG) and Theo Johnson (3.0 PPG, 1.8 RPG) as combo guards, while Wiedeman and Matt Sundberg (2.3 PPG, 2.2 RPG) will be key components in the front court.  

The Cougars rank seventh in the SoCon in scoring offense (63.9 PPG) and second in scoring defense (62.1 PPG). The Cougars also rank third in scoring margin (+1.8), while ranking first in field goal percentage (44.2%), 3-point field goal percentage (37.8%), blocked shots (4.9 BPG) and rebounding margin (+5.1). 

Georgia Southern comes into Thursday night's matchup with a team that has been explosive at times this season. They are also a team that has also proven to be a streaky-shooting club this season, but might just be hitting its their stride at just the right time. 

The Eagles are young in the backcourt, and tag-teaming the point guard position so far this season have been C.J. Reed (11.5 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 3.2 APG) and Tre Bussey (10.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG). Cleon Roberts (7.9 PPG, 2.0 RPG) rounds out the starting trio in the backcourt, and stepped into the lineup and has done a nice job filling in for Jelani Hewitt, who was suspended the entire season by head coach Charlton Young. 

Reed has proven to be a huge addition to the Eagles' backcourt this season after transferring in from Central Florida as a result of NCAA infractions.

He was allowed out of his scholarship from Central Florida. Reed had planned on playing for the Golden Knights after playing for three years at Bethune Cookman, where he was the HBCU National Player of the Year after averaging 15.8 PPG in his senior season. He was one of the reasons the Eagles were able to end that 11-game skid against Davidson on Monday night, as he posted 16 points. 

The front court for the Eagles will be comprised of Eric Ferguson (14.6 PPG, 7.6 RPG) and Kameron Dunnican (1.4 PPG, 1.9 RPG). 

Ferguson is one of the best players and athletes in the Southern Conference and has a future in professional basketball internationally, and perhaps even in the NBA. The cerebral 6'7" junior is tied with CofC's Baru for double-doubles in the league this season, with five heading into Thursday's contest.

Ferguson reached the 1,000-point plateau just before Christmas and was named the SoCon's Player of the Month for the Month of December. He is coming off a 14-point performance in the win over Davidson last time out and currently ranks third in the SoCon in rebounds (7.6 RPG) sixth in blocked shots (20) (1.2 BPG). 

The Eagles have solid production coming off the bench with Marvin Baynham (4.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG) and Cameron Baskerville (4.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG) being the two most seasoned players off the GSU bench. The tandem gives GSU maybe the most depth and athleticism of any front court unit in the SoCon this season.

Baynham is coming off quite the performance against Davidson on Monday night, providing 10 points off the bench for the Eagles in the 13-point triumph.

As a team, Georgia Southern comes into Thursday night's South Division clash 10th in the Southern Conference in scoring offense (60.8 PPG) and third in scoring defense (64.0 PPG). 

This should be a good one, but the confidence GSU gained from the win over Davidson, coupled with another rowdy crowd at Hanner Fieldhouse with classes back in session, should be enough to propel what looks to be a dangerous Georgia Southern team to a second straight Southern Conference win.

Final Score: 65-58 Georgia Southern 

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