Eagles to battle Barons

Junior guard Jelani Hewitt (5) looks to dish the ball after being corralled by a defender. Hewitt leads the Eagles in scoring, as he averages 24.5 ppg.Photo by: Jessica Stanfield

Robert Huitt

After an impressive start to the season, the Georgia Southern University men’s basketball team has hit a rough patch and will look to turn things around against Brewton-Parker College Wednesday.

The Eagles (3-5) started the season 2-1 with the two victories coming by an average margin of 45 points. The lone defeat in that stretch came in a one-point overtime loss at the hands of the University of Miami.

The Eagles have cooled considerably since the hot start and have dropped four of their previous five games, including a 73-75 overtime loss to Campbell University Saturday.

“One of the big keys is losing Brian Holmes over the last four games,” GSU head coach Mark Byington said. “Not having him has made some things different in our lineup, different in our rotations.”

In addition to players missing from the lineup, Byington said that the early schedule has had an impact on the team’s play of late as well.

“We really need some practice time right now,” Byington said. “With all the travel and different places we’ve been, we haven’t had the chance to get in practice and work on things.”

The Brewton-Parker Barons (5-5) are coming off a 75-74 overtime victory over Morris College behind the 31-point outburst of senior forward Darrie Stephens.

Stephens is the primary scoring option for the Barons, averaging 23 points per game on 54 percent shooting.  He also adds in a team-leading eight rebounds per game. Last year, Stephens put up 26 points against GSU.

“Being focused on [Stephens] and stopping him and still doing a good job on the other guys is going to be key for us,” Byington said.

The Barons will also rely on freshman guard Kenny Cunningham and junior guard Steve Edwards to ease the offensive burden on Stephens. Cunningham and Edwards average 9.2 and 8.4 points, respectively.

The Eagles will employ the high-scoring tandem of redshirt junior guard Jelani Hewitt and senior guard Tre Bussey.

Hewitt, fresh off a 38-point scoring binge against Campbell, has proved to be an all-around threat for the Eagles. He leads the team with 24.5 points and 4.1 assists per game. Hewitt also contributes in cleaning the glass with 5.8 rebounds, which ranks second on the team.

Bussey, the second-leading scorer on the team with 21.1 points per contest, has done most of his damage behind the arc. He’s tied with Hewitt with a team-leading 22 made three-point field goals on 44.9 percent shooting. Bussey also pulls down 5.1 rebounds per game.

With the absence of senior forward Eric Ferguson, the Eagles have looked for a third scorer to complement the duo of Hewitt and Bussey.

“My big thing is just sharing the basketball. I think there are a lot of guys capable of doing more things,” Byington said.

The Eagles will take the court against Brewton-Parker Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Hanner Fieldhouse.