Bittersweet victory for the Eagles

Layne Saliba

Thursday night didn’t quite go the way head Coach Mark Byington wanted it to.

“We weren’t our best tonight. And a lot of that goes to the credit of Arkansas State. They made a great game-plan, came in and kept us off balance and did a lot of good things,” Byington said.

But the Georgia Southern men’s basketball team (17-5, 10-3 SBC) was able to squeak out a narrow 65-60 victory over Arkansas State (9-14, 4-10 SBC) despite all of the struggles.

Redshirt senior guard Jelani Hewittt led the team with 15 points, 11 of which came in the second half. He was also able to tally four assists and three steals on the night.

Redshirt senior forward Trent Wiedeman posted 14 points while senior guard Curtis Diamond added 11. Diamond may not have scored as many points as the other two, but he was vital to the game as he recorded four offensive rebounds to keep the ball in the Eagles’ hands.

Senior forward Angel Matias took four shots in the first half for eight points and didn’t miss a single one, while freshman guard Jake Allsmiller went 50 percent from beyond the arc. However, the score was close throughout the entire half with the Eagles only leading for 4:15. Not to mention, they went 2-8 from the charity stripe.

The Eagles played sloppy. It’s as simple as that. They didn’t protect the ball and were unable to produce points, even though they were quick in transition. But, somehow Georgia Southern had the lead 31-27 as the teams headed into the locker room.

“We started our game slow, and that affected us. Coach said at the beginning of the game that we’d have to play our best game and we didn’t,” Matias said.

The second half was much better for the Eagles although they still came out showing signs of struggle. However, the Eagles were able to increase their lead and gain the largest of the game [12] with just over 11 minutes to play.

“Jelani made some big plays,“ Byington said. “He saved us at the end with big shots and composure. He wasn’t going to let us lose the game.”

And coach Byington was right about that. Hewitt wouldn’t go down without putting on a show for the fans. With 12:42 left in the game, he threw down a one-handed dunk, giving the Eagles a 10-point lead.

Less than two minutes later, Mike Hughes tossed up an alley-oop that Ferguson grabbed and slammed to increase the lead to 50-38.

Arkansas State started to bring pressure in the last minute of the game, but it was too little too late for the Red Wolves. The Eagles had already sealed the 65-60 victory.

The Eagles will travel to Little Rock, Ar. on Saturday to face UALR at 6 p.m.

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