Georgia Southern wins 'three-minute game', defeating Troy in overtime
Kamari Brown scores 12, shooting 3-for-5 from beyond the arc
STATESBORO — Brian Burg needed a stop.
The first year head coach’s Georgia Southern men’s basketball team had fought for 44 minutes and held a two-point advantage with 19 seconds left in overtime against Troy.
The Trojans inbounded the ball and made their way across half-court. Troy leading scorer Kam Woods worked the ball in the paint and went up for the game-tying score.
Zack Bryant blocked the attempt, swiping the ball away from Woods. Elijah McCadden got the rebound, made the free throw and Troy’s three-point attempt went array.
The 67-64 overtime victory for GS ended the Eagles’ two-game losing skid and provided Burg with a blueprint for the rest of the season.
“I thought we made some big plays,” Burg said. “Sure we made some mistakes, but late in the game we threw up a big stop. Zack Bryant made a good individual defensive play and it really helped us. We defended a lot better tonight.”
Three-point shooting and defense proved crucial in GS’ second Sun Belt victory of the season and both were on display early.
McCadden and Eric Boone each made a three pointer in the first two minutes while the Trojans’ offense couldn’t do anything. Then Prince Toyambi had his first block.
Both teams mustered up some offense, with Kamari Brown hitting a three. But the Eagles’ offense stalled for a while.
Actually, it was worse than stalling. GS missed 11-straight field goals and went more than 10 minutes without a field goal.
Troy’s offense wasn’t able to extend their lead, allowing Bryant to enter the scene with a jumper to make it a 7-point game.
Following Bryant’s two-pointer, Boone picked up a steal and went down for a two-handed slam, cutting Troy’s lead to 23-20 with 3:10 until halftime.
GS ended the first half on an 18-4 run.
“We always practice like three minute game scenarios, so Coach told us it's just like practice. It’s just a three minute game,” Bryant said. “We just stayed bought into our game plan which means the defense turns into our offense. Once our offense gets going, we feel like we’re an unstoppable team.”
After the first half, both teams’ offenses were in a rut — missing layups, turnovers aplenty and cheap fouls.
Then GS got into a rhythm and extended their lead to 11 with 12:39 remaining in regulation.
“We were able to get some stops and go on the run,” Burg said. “We’re a team that likes to create easy baskets. Whenever we went on that run, we were able to get some turnovers and that turned into offense for us.”
Woods scored in transition off of an Eagle turnover, several Trojans made free throws and the visitors slowly and inevitably cut into the lead, tying the game at 59 with 19 seconds in regulation.
On the Eagles’ final possession, Bryant dribbled the ball up top before passing it around with eight seconds left. Boone got the ball on the left and stepped out of bounds, sending the game to overtime.
GS outscored Troy, 8-5 in overtime to secure the win.
“This was a must-win game for us,” Brown said. “We just had to dig in and play defense. Coach preaches that every day in practice that defense wins games.”
Other news and notes
GS was outrebounded, 49-37. Burg said it’s one of the things his team will have to continue to work on.
“One area we do have to get better on is offensive boards. They got too many second-chance points. We need to make sure we’re boxing out.”
Following the team’s sharpshooting from deep last weekend in Boone, the Eagles made 10 three-pointers.
“It’s so exciting, honestly,” Bryant said. “Whether it’s me, Kamari, Gedi, Elijah McCadden or Eric Boone making it, we all see each other as one. When one of us makes one, we all make one.”
The overtime victory was GS’ second of the season, defeating Florida International in double overtime Dec. 19 in Miami. It’s the fourth-straight overtime win for the Eagles, dating back to last season.
Out of town brief
Looking to get back in the win column, the Georgia Southern women’s basketball team took on Preseason Sun Belt favorite Troy, falling 87-70. After a 23-point first quarter, the Eagles couldn’t fend off the Trojans.
Freshman Simone James led the team with 18 points. Redshirt-freshman Eden Johnson has 16 points.
The men’s team will play host to Troy Saturday, looking to improve to 3-3 in conference play. Tip-off from Hanner is set for 3 p.m. Eastern.
The women’s team will look to get back to .500 at 3-3 on the road at Troy, tip-off set for 5 p.m. Eastern.