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Georgia Southern to face Georgia Tech in season opener

The Georgia Southern men’s basketball team will begin the 2023-24 season with a challenging matchup against Georgia Tech, the Eagles announced on Tuesday. The game will take place on Nov. 6 at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta, marking the first meeting between the two programs since 2021.

A new era for the Eagles

The game will also mark the debut of Charlie Henry, who was hired as the new head coach of Georgia Southern in March. Henry, who has previous experience as an assistant coach in the NBA and college level, will look to lead the Eagles to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1992.

Henry inherited a team that finished 17-17 last season and lost in the first round of the Sun Belt tournament. He has brought in several new players, including transfers from Illinois, Florida Atlantic, and Eastern Kentucky, as well as some high school recruits. He will also rely on some returning veterans, such as senior guard Elijah McCadden and junior forward Andrei Savrasov.

Henry said he is excited to face Georgia Tech in his first game as the Eagles’ head coach.

“It’s a great opportunity for our program to play against a quality opponent from a power conference,” Henry said. “We have a lot of respect for Coach [Josh] Pastner and what he has done at Georgia Tech. It will be a good test for us to see where we are and what we need to work on.”

A tough challenge for the Yellow Jackets

Georgia Tech, meanwhile, will enter the game as the defending ACC champions, having won their first conference title since 1993 last season. The Yellow Jackets finished 17-9 overall and 11-6 in the ACC, and earned a No. 9 seed in the NCAA tournament. However, they were upset by No. 8 seed Loyola Chicago in the first round, ending their dream season.

Georgia Tech will have to replace some key players from last year’s squad, most notably senior guards Jose Alvarado and Michael Devoe, who were both named to the All-ACC first team. Alvarado led the team in scoring (15.2 points per game), assists (4.1 per game), and steals (2.8 per game), while Devoe averaged 15 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game.

 Georgia Tech in season opener

The Yellow Jackets will also miss senior forward Moses Wright, who was named the ACC Player of the Year after averaging 17.4 points and 8 rebounds per game. Wright was ruled out of the NCAA tournament due to COVID-19 protocols, which hurt Georgia Tech’s chances of advancing.

Georgia Tech will have to rely on some new faces to fill the void left by their departed stars. The Yellow Jackets have added some transfers from major programs, such as Deivon Smith from Mississippi State, Dallan Coleman from Florida State, and Rodney Howard from Georgia. They also have some returning players who could step up, such as junior forward Jordan Usher and sophomore guard Bubba Parham.

Pastner said he is looking forward to playing against Georgia Southern in the season opener.

“They are a well-coached team that plays hard and competes,” Pastner said. “They have some talented players who can score and defend. We know it won’t be an easy game for us. We have to be ready to play at a high level from the start.”

A history of close games

The game between Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech will be the eighth meeting in history between the two schools, with the Yellow Jackets holding a 6-1 edge in the series. The last time they played was on Dec. 15, 2021, when Georgia Tech edged Georgia Southern 61-59 at McCamish Pavilion.

In that game, Alvarado scored 18 points and hit a clutch jumper with 45 seconds left to give Georgia Tech the lead for good. Devoe added 14 points and Wright had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Yellow Jackets. McCadden led Georgia Southern with 18 points and seven rebounds, while Savrasov had 10 points and six rebounds.

The game was close throughout, with neither team leading by more than seven points. Georgia Southern had a chance to tie or win the game in the final seconds, but Quan Jackson missed a layup and Ike Smith missed a three-pointer at the buzzer.

The only time Georgia Southern beat Georgia Tech was on Dec. 22, 1987, when the Eagles pulled off a stunning 78-77 upset at Alexander Memorial Coliseum (now McCamish Pavilion). In that game, Jeff Sanders scored 25 points and hit two free throws with four seconds left to seal the victory for Georgia Southern. Tom Hammonds had 24 points and John Salley had 19 points for Georgia Tech.

The game between Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech will be one of two games that are part of the MAC/SBC Challenge, which is a series of games between teams from the Mid-American Conference and the Sun Belt Conference. The other game will be Eastern Michigan at Georgia Southern on Nov. 18. The Eagles will also host Eastern Michigan on Feb. 10 as part of the challenge.

The game between Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech will tip off at 7 p.m. ET and will be televised on ACC Network.

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