Angel Matias was whistled for an offensive foul while driving the lane with :20 left in the game, turning the ball over to the Troy Trojans who held on to win 65-62 in Hanner Fieldhouse tonight.
The Georgia Southern bench and coaches were visibly upset with the call.
“It was a highly contested game. There were a lot of calls being made and we had our chances and they had their chances,” head coach Mark Byington said. “I’m not allowed to comment about the referees, it was a tough game for everybody.”
The Eagles (18-6, 11-4 SBC) were down 62-58 with under three minutes to play when Matias powered his way into the lane for a tough layup to bring the game within two. He pulled down an offensive rebound with 1:10 left and somehow managed to score with three Trojan defenders hovering over him to tie the game at 62 a piece.
The next possession, the whole gym knew the ball was going to be in his hands. Matias was on the left wing, did a jab step then drove the lane. He was moving laterally to his right, and the Trojan defender was backpedaling with him when the referee blew the whistle for a charge.
“It didn’t look like one from my angle, but the referee had an angle and the referee called it. It was a big play; we’re driving the ball in there and Angel’s got pretty good position. The referee made a call, so we’ve got to stand by the call,” Byington said.
That charge call was a manifestation of the whole game. Matias was called for three offensive fouls altogether – one was while diving for a loose ball and the other was on a spin move with minimal contact.
Both benches were hollering at the zebra stripes the majority of the game. In the first half, there were 10 fouls called. In the second half, there were 25.
Byington wasn’t taking the easy way out and putting it all on the refs, however. The Eagles played sloppy basketball and gave the Trojans too many opportunities.
“Our whole team was out of rhythm. Coming into the game we were out of rhythm, in shoot-around today we’re out of rhythm. And we didn’t have the right mental approach coming in,” Byington said.
GSU averages 12.5 turnovers per game but gave the ball away 11 times just in the first half. Turnovers, combined with the stop-and-go pace created by so many foul calls, made it difficult for the Eagles to get into any kind of rhythm.
They shot 4-10 from beyond the arc in the first half but followed that up going 3-18 in the second half.
“We have a rule that if a guy is open they shoot it,” Byington said.
Mike Hughes was responsible for four of the made threes. Hughes finished 4-7 from deep with led the Eagles in scoring with 14 points.
Senior Jelani Hewitt had a rough night. He shot 3-19 from the floor including 2-12 from downtown. He finished with 12 points.
Georgia Southern didn’t help themselves from the foul line either, sinking only 11-21. The Eagles missed seven of their last nine free throws down the stretch.
One positive note was their rebounding gave the team a chance late in the game. On two consecutive possessions with under three minutes, GSU pulled down multiple offensive rebounds to keep the hope alive.
“We had urgency there in the second half. I wish we had the same thing the entire game. We worked hard to make some plays there,” Byington said.
This was the first game all year that the Eagles had more offensive rebounds, 24, than defensive, 22.
This is the second time this season that GSU has lost to Troy, both were decided by less than five points.
Byington said that Friday practices after a Thursday game usually are at 75 percent speed and have minimal contact in order to give the player’s legs a rest for Saturday. Not tomorrow’s practice. He said they are going to have an intense practice tomorrow to get their heads right for South Alabama on Saturday.