'They can’t handle us'
Tatum Barber shines in rivalry game against Georgia State, looks for the series sweep Saturday
STATESBORO — It’s safe to say that Tatum Barber loves a good rivalry game.
Her freshman year in Atlanta against Georgia State, Barber was seen raising her hands to get the GSU crowd louder and more involved. Last season against the Panthers, she hit the game-winning 3-pointer to send Georgia Southern to the Sun Belt tournament.
Thursday night, in her penultimate game in the rivalry, the senior went for 17 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals and an assist as the Eagles extended their win streak over their rivals with a 77-69 victory.
After the game, Barber’s personality overflowed through her hugs with her teammates, her smile as strong as ever and her words as confident as any GS player in recent memory.
“We’re making history a lot this year,” Barber said. “(We need to) keep doing what we’re doing. Don’t let up. We’re going to beat (Georgia) State a lot more on Saturday. We just need to continue to do what we do and let the babies know that it’s going to be normal for us to beat State, Troy and all them every game.”
Then came a declarative statement from Barber that, though not given the same amount of coverage, was in similar headspace as Tim Tebow’s famed promise.
“They’re not ready for us,” Barber said of playing GSU again on Saturday. “They can’t handle us. They can’t guard us. We’re ready. We’re going to beat them by at least 20 on Saturday. Marking it now. Just speaking facts.”
Quite the quote from one of the most outspoken GS players. She speaks in postgame interviews, she speaks on the court and she speaks from the bench while cheering on her teammates.
Even in games where she isn’t contributing as greatly on the stat sheet, Barber’s impact and support still goes a long way.
“I’m a big believer that basketball rewards those who give back to the game,” GS head coach Anita Howard said. “Tatum, even in that Troy series and not having the best senior night, she’s a player that wants to win. She’s doing whatever we need her to do.”
Though much of the shine was on Barber Thursday, it was the underclassmen that pushed the Eagles past their rivals. Freshmen Daeja Holmes and Simone James combined for 17 points, three rebounds and four steals. Sophomores Mya Burns and Shondell Vickers had 18 points and 10 rebounds.
As has been the case all season, Howard’s team played a selfless game of basketball. There were times when it looked like GSU may come back to tie the game, but time after time GS refocused and went on a run.
The Eagles led for 39:12 and never trailed.
“I was really pleased with how we started the first quarter,” Howard said. “That was a challenge I asked them in the locker room before the game. We always start off slow and then come out in the third quarter and hit on all cylinders. I said, ‘let’s not watch the game, let’s make the game.’”
Barber was one of just two seniors who saw the court Thursday as A’Tyanna Gaulden was sidelined with a left ankle injury.
“Not having (A’Tyanna Gaulden) we knew we had to step up and fill the place,” Barber said. “New team this year has me really excited to see where we go. I’m just really excited because I think we’re going to do some big things in the next few weeks.”
The Eagles found out Gaulden, the team’s leading scorer, would be out just before tip-off.
“We’ll see how it feels (Friday) and see if she’ll be able to go Saturday,” Howard said. “If not, her teammates have her back. We need her in later games, so I think we’ll do okay until we can get her healthy.”
GSU started to rally with two minutes left in the game. Howard turned around and looked down her bench for someone who could best disrupt the Panthers’ offense.
A 6-foot-tall freshman looked back at her coach and quickly jumped up, making her way to the scoretable to be subbed in.
Lacy Robins, a Statesboro high school product, played the final 1:27 and finished with a steal, a rebound and a made free throw.
“She can shoot the ball when we need her too, but right now she’s such a long, lengthy defender,” Howard said of Robins. “When Georgia State was trying to inbound the ball, we put her at the top of our press to make it difficult. She makes it difficult for point guards to see over her.”
Out of town brief
In a back-and-forth game in Atlanta, the men fell to Georgia State 79-75. Zack Bryant led the Eagles in scoring with 21 in 34 minutes of play. Gedi Juozapaitis made five 3-pointers to finish with 17 points.
The men were scheduled to play in Statesboro Saturday, but the game has been postponed due to COVID issues in the GS program. With no open dates for both teams, it is unlikely that the game will be made up, but according to the press release, “Georgia Southern will work with Georgia State and the Sun Belt Conference to reschedule the game for later this season.”
MBB: 12-10; 6-7 @ Coastal Carolina (12-6;6-5) Feb. 19 @ 6 p.m.
WBB: 9-9; 5-6 @ Georgia State (9-7;5-4) Saturday @ 2 p.m.
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