Eagles lose in finals to Georgia State

Colin Ritsick

G Kevin Ware scored 18 points and F Eric Ferguson’s last-second three-point attempt bricked off the glass as the Panthers beat Georgia Southern 38-36 to claim the 2015 Sun Belt Championship today.

This was the lowest scoring Sun Belt conference tournament game of all time.

“We thought if we had the game in the forties or fifties that was to our advantage. I never it would be in the thirties,” head coach Mark Byington said.

G R.J. Hunter drilled two free throws with :21.6 left in the game to give the Georgia State their final lead. He picked up a loose ball that C Trent Wiedeman couldn’t get his hands around after diving for it. Hunter pump faked, got G Curtis Diamond to jump and leaned into him on the shot to pick up the foul.

“He’s a big time player, he stood up and made two big-time free throws at the end and he should be congratulated for that,” Byington said.

G Mike Hughes had a wide open three point attempt with about nine seconds to play that barely missed. The shot hit the back of the rim and flew straight up, a sign that it was just inches away from going in.

“Mike Hughes shot was a tremendous wide open look. I love the fact the fact that he doesn’t play like a freshman, he’s courageous,” Byington said. “It was a beautiful stroke and the shot just back-rimmed.”

Georgia Southern had the ball under their own basket with :05.1 left to play. G Mike Hughes inbounded the ball to Ferguson on the left wing. Ferguson jab-stepped right, went left and let it fly with a hand in his face. The ball was on line, but it was too far and hit the glass then the rim and bounced off.

“I appreciate his courage to take it…Eric’s look was hard because of limited time,” Byington said.

Points were at a premium today and neither team could get much going offensively. Not one field goal was scored in the last five minutes.

Georgia State blocked three shots right underneath the rim within the last five minutes that would have given the Eagles the lead or the tie. Aside from blocked shots, Georgia Southern’s turnovers came at the costliest of times.

“We left some plays out there in the first [half], some things around the rim, some transition opportunities that we just dropped or didn’t finish,” Byington said.

The Eagles had two separate one-on-one fast break opportunities late in the game where the ball was stolen from them. They simply missed too many good opportunities to win today.

G Jelani Hewitt and F Trent Wiedeman were named to the all-tournament team. They led the Eagles in scoring today with eight points each and Wiedeman pulled down seven rebounds. Hughes added seven points and nine rebounds

 The Eagles finish their season with a 22-9 record, their first 20-win season since 2005. They will likely be invited to play in the NIT.