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Georgia Southern holds off Nanooks

Submitted by Dave Geringer
Phone: (907) 474-6807


Senior guard Chris Smith's (San Bernardino, CA/Cal State Fullerton) three-point attempt rimmed out at the buzzer, and Georgia Southern held on to defeat the University of Alaska Fairbanks men's basketball team, 78-75, in a second round game at the 2004 BP Top of the World Classic at the Carlson Center Saturday evening.

Smith's shot nearly capped a rally that saw the Nanooks score the game's last eight points, all in the final minute and a half.

Elton Nesbitt's layup gave GSU a 78-67 lead with 1:34 remaining gave the Eagles a 78-67 lead. Senior guard Brad Oleson (North Pole, FL/North Pole HS/Peninsula College) connected on a three-pointer, then freshman guard Chris Jordan (Houston, TX/Milby HS) stole the ball and laid it in to make it 78-72, GSU, with 58 seconds remaining.

Jordan then drew a foul, made a free throw, and was fouled again and connected from the free throw line twice to cut the Eagles' lead to 78-75. Terry Williams of GSU drew a foul, but missed both free throws with five seconds remaining, and the Nanooks, who were out of time outs, pushed the ball up the floor but Smith's shot just missed.

Georgia Southern led early, building an 11-point advantage before UAF rallied. Oleson's jumper just before halftime left the Eagles with a six-point lead at the intermission.

The Eagles outscored the Nanooks, 29-21 in the first 14 minutes of the second half to take a 71-61 lead. Chris Smith and junior forward Ivan Miskovic (Belgrade, Serbia/Monroe Catholic HS) made shots to cut GSU's advantage to six, but the Eagles opened up their lead again before UAF began its final run.

Oleson led all scorers with 26 points, junior forward Andrew Smith (Anchorage, AK/) added 14, and Jordan and Chris Smith added 12 each. Williams led the Eagles with 16, Louis Graham had 14, and Jean Francois added 10. Graham grabbed 11 rebounds as GSU won the battle of the boards, 48-33.

"In a game like this, a free throw, a rebound or a turnover can end up making the difference, but I thought we played better tonight than we did Thursday night," said Nanook Head Coach Frank Ostanik. "We were a better team tonight, and if we're a better team tomorrow, we will have a heck of a chance to win a game. We were beaten too many times off the dribble on the perimeter. We battled foul trouble all night, and we were fortunate to get to halftime with no one with more than two fouls."

"We knew coming in that we were playing a very good team in a tough environment, and I'm glad that we were able to win," said GSU Head Coach Jeff Price. "We knew coming in that we needed to rebound the ball better and we did, and that was the difference in the game. We missed too many free throws. I saw Fairbanks play against Central Florida, and I thought Oleson played much more aggressively tonight than he did Thursday night. This is a great tournament format, it will help us get ready for our conference tournament."

Georgia Southern evened their record at 1-1 with the victory, while UAF fell to 2-2 with the defeat. The Nanooks will play Western Michigan for seventh place Sunday evening at 5:00, while GSU meets Portland for fourth place at 11:00 Sunday morning.