‘It’s a character win’: Eagles split weekend series with division-leading Chanticleers
Elijah McCadden hit the buzzer-beating three to win on Saturday
STATESBORO — You’ve been there, shooting hoops around the neighborhood, at the gym or in the community park. From pick-up games to just shooting around with headphones in, you have played through that last-second, buzzer-beating shot. The clock in your head counts down as you step into a long-range shot to win the NBA Finals or national championship.
That scenario came into fruition Saturday afternoon when Georgia Southern junior guard Elijah McCadden hit a three-point shot to take a 61-58 lead over Coastal Carolina, who were unable to make anything happen with 0.8 seconds on the clock. McCadden actually hit two three pointers in the final 30 seconds against the Chanticleers.
“To play point guard in this league, I knew I always have to be ready with the ball in my hands,” McCadden said after the game. “That’s something everyone has done since they were a little kid. It feels good when you get those moments and get those opportunities to actually do it.”
To set up the shot, junior guard Eric Boone brought the ball down and looked at the clock as he dribbled with reigning Sun Belt Player of the Week DeVante’ Jones playing him tight. Boone drove in with 5.9 ticks left and ended up on the left elbow. He drove in again and got double teamed. Boone then found a wide-open McCadden with 3.1 remaining. McCadden quickly released the game-winner.
“I wanted to be able to get downhill,” GS head coach Brian Burg said. “We were having a lot of success in the second half getting downhill and getting to the rim. That’s something we worked on in practice — penetrating, getting two guys to commit and then make the extra pass. Elijah was wide-open after Boone committed two defenders. Great shot by Elijah.”
McCadden finished the night with 10 points, shooting 4-for-7 with three rebounds and two assists. Over the course of the two games, he averaged more than 10 points, five rebounds and shot 62% from the field.
Burg knew his 6-foot-4 point guard was capable of these performances when he first met him.
“From the first time I met Elijah back in the recruiting process, I knew he was a guy that wanted to take big shots,” Burg said. “You look at our roster and there are a number of guys that want to take that big shot. He puts in the time. He puts in the effort. The game rewarded him today with him making two big ones.”
McCadden’s moment, met with excitement on the bench as those on the court immediately turned around and prepared to play defense, was even more sweet given the aura surrounding the team less than 24 hours before.
In the first game of the season-long series Friday night, CCU dominated GS in a 79-62 win.
Coastal shot 51% from the field, outrebounded GS 40-36 and shot 45% from beyond the arc. The Chanticleers came into the weekend averaging 86.1 points per game, good for sixth-best in the nation.
And that makes Saturday’s GS victory even more impressive. GS held the Chanticleers to 18 first half points and had an 11-point lead at the break compared to being down by 13 the night before.
“The locker room was poised. Give credit to our players for being extremely mature and poised,” Burg said. “We knew we had only played 20 minutes and had to come out and play 20 more minutes. I thought we did a good job of locking down in the first half. To limit that team to only 18 points in the first half is a testament to our guys getting back and making them play in the half court.”
The second half was anything but poised for GS, though.
After a McCadden jumper to open the second 20 minutes, the Chanticleers went on a 6-0 run. The high-flying offense, led by Jones’ 27 points, put up 40 points, GS had eight fouls and eight turnovers and CCU shot 54% from the field in the second half.
But unlike in games past, the Eagles were able to finish the game. GS shot a season-high 90.9% from the free throw line, the Eagles’ defense held CCU to a season-low 58 points and forced a season-high 23 turnovers.
“It’s a character win,” Burg said, praising his team’s effort and mentality. “The guys came back, went through a walkthrough this morning and made adjustments. Guys guarded and late-game they executed. The last media timeout we told them that we’ve been in this situation before. We needed to make a stop and get a quality shot on the other end.”
Other news and notes
Junior guard Kamari Brown led the Eagles in scoring with 17 points. He also had two rebounds and a steal.
“Kamari Brown had a huge impact in the second half on both ends of the court,” Burg said. “Unbelievable leadership. Him being able to make open shots, attack the rim and on the defensive end get a key steal, quality game for Kamari Brown.”
Friday’s attendance was a season-high 811. Covid-capacity for Hanner Fieldhouse is about 1,100.
“Even with Corona, it’s still a fun environment,” McCadden said. “There are times when it doesn’t feel like a limited crowd. It still gets loud because of the small stadium.”
Hall of Fame Temple men’s basketball coach John Chaney passed away Friday at the age of 89.
“He’s a legend,” Burg said of Chaney. “Growing up you always heard about the stories of his practices, the relationships he had with his players and how competitive he was. A true legend along with many others that have passed this past year with John Thompson and Eddie Sutton. John Chaney is a legendary coach. I had the chance to follow his career as a young coach when I first started, but the utmost respect for him and what he brought to the game of basketball.”
Out of town brief
The Georgia Southern women’s basketball team was already in South Carolina Thursday when this weekend’s two-game series against Coastal Carolina had to be postponed due to COVID-19 protocols in the Chanticleer’s program. Neither game has been rescheduled yet. The two teams are scheduled to play in Statesboro Feb. 19 and 20.
MBB: 11-8; 5-5 @ Troy (8-9; 3-5) February 5 at 7 p.m. Eastern
WBB: 7-8; 3-5 vs Troy (11-4; 7-1) February 5 at 6 p.m. Eastern