Eagles play Paladins for last time in SoCon

Colin Ritsick

Georgia Southern University will face long-time rival Furman University tonight for the last time ever in the Southern Conference.

GSU holds a one-game edge in the all-time series record, 25-24. The team will need to win tonight to exit the conference with bragging rights over Furman.

The Eagles (12-17, 5-9 SoCon) beat the Paladins (9-19, 3-12 SoCon) earlier this year 88-81 in overtime on Jan. 16. That was the last time GSU had a winning record in the SoCon.

Since then, both programs have struggled. The Eagles have gone 3-8 in division play and currently sit in seventh place in the conference. They have lost five of their last six.

The Paladins are 3-7 in that same stretch. The only reason FU isn’t the bottom-ranked team in the SoCon is because of The Citadel’s ghastly 1-14 conference record.

The game tonight is the second-to-last game for the Eagles in regular season play. If they win tonight and beat The Citadel on Saturday, they will finish the year at 7-9 in the conference. That may just be enough to bump them up to the sixth place, depending on how the 6-8 University of North Carolina-Greensboro finishes.

Senior guard Tre Bussey, junior guard Jelani Hewitt and junior forward Angel Matias led GSU in scoring the last time these two teams met. Bussey had 26 points and Hewitt and Matias both finished with 21 points.

In that game, GSU was 11-21 from beyond the arc. 52.4 percent shooting is a superb number for three-pointers. The Eagles will likely need to rely on a similar performance in order to win tonight.

The Paladins play good defense but their armor is weakest on the perimeter. If Hewitt or Bussey can get hot from downtown, the Eagles win this game and exit the SoCon with something to hang over the Paladin’s head.