Eagles hit the road this weekend

Robert George

The Georgia Southern men’s basketball team is in the midst of a three-way tie for first place in the Sun Belt with UL Monroe and Georgia State. There are four games left on the schedule for the Eagles, including two huge road games tonight and Saturday.

The Eagles travel to Boone, N.C. to take on the Appalachian State Mountaineers this evening in the second meeting between the schools this year. The Eagles completely dismantled a rattled Mountaineers team 83-46 at Hanner in the first meeting in one of the most lopsided wins of the season.

The Eagles rained is this the right rained/reigned? in 12 three-pointers and cruised to a blowout win. Senior Jelani Hewitt hit five long balls, and Eric Ferguson and Jake Allsmiller added two a piece from way downtown against an outmatched Mountaineers defense.

In comparison, App State went 2-10 from deep and shot just 28 percent from the field. But, the Eagles will be on the road against an App State team that is desperate for a win, going just 1-5 since losing to the Eagles. The Mountaineers may not roll over at home like they did at Hanner.

The Eagles have a day off before traveling to take on UL Lafayette on Saturday. This is a huge matchup against a tough Ragin’ Cajuns squad that is on a three-game winning streak. The Eagles defeated the Ragin’ Cajuns in the first meeting 78-70 in front of a sellout crowd at Hanner back in January.

Freshman Mike Hughes had a big game, scoring 18 points and pulling down seven rebounds while adding three assists and three steals. Hewitt had 17 points and three assists in that game, while seniors Curtis Diamond and Angel Matias chipped in 12 points and 11 points respectively.

The defense held the Cajuns to just 38 percent shooting from the field and 29 percent from behind the arc. The Eagles will need that balanced scoring and stout defense if they want to come out of Louisiana with a win.

Junior Shawn Long leads UL Lafayette offensively with 17 points per game to go along with 10 rebounds per game. The do-it-all forward is shooting an impressive 55 percent from the field, and knocks down about 35 percent of his three-point shots. The Eagles will look to make him work for his shots, not letting him get in a rhythm in his gym.

The Eagles will continue to rely on balanced scoring and their strong defense, but still need Hewitt to provide consistent play down the final stretch of the season. The senior guard leads the team with 18.7 points per game and 2.6 steals to go along with 3.8 assists per contest. His experience and leadership will be crucial as the Eagles try to navigate through four tough match-ups, three of which are away from Hanner.

With just four games left, each game is essentially a must win. Senior night is a week away, and the much-anticipated rematch between Georgia Southern and the school up north is looming. But, the Eagles have to stay focused and take care of business in the next few days if they want to keep their share of first place in the conference. The Eagles could clinch the top seed in the tournament if they win out.

The Eagles game tonight begins at 7:30 p.m.