Men’s basketball wins in convincing fashion

Layne Saliba

It was a night where all but two Eagles scored, and the opponent never led as the Georgia Southern men’s basketball team (14-4, 7-2 SBC) faced Appalachian State (8-11, 5-5 SBC) on Thursday night in Hanner Field House. The Eagles gained a convincing victory as they beat the Mountaineers 83-46.

“We’ve had certain nights where our defense has been good, and certain nights where our offense has been good. There’s been very few nights where both of them came together,” head coach Mark Byington said. “But tonight we guarded very well, and then we made some shots too.”

Redshirt senior guard Jelani Hewitt was the leading scorer with 17 points. He was also able to add five assists and four rebounds to his total. Redshirt senior forward Trent Wiedeman knew it was going to be one of those nights within the first minute of play as he posted 16 points while bringing down six rebounds. Senior guard Angel Matias helped the team with 13 points and four rebounds.

“Usually when you see your first one go in, it’s a good indicator for the rest of your night. So seeing the first one go in felt really good, and I just felt confident for the rest of the night,” Wiedeman said.

The Eagles, again led by Hewitt, were able to rack up 14 steals on the night, and converted App State’s 18 turnovers into 24 points. The Eagles had their second highest scoring percentage of the season at 52 percent while holding the Mountaineers to just 29 percent.

The Eagles were fired up and ready to go as soon as the jump ball was tossed into the air. After an App State miss, Wiedeman took the ball down the court for a fade away jumper. Just moments later, he sunk a three-ball, followed by freshman guard Jake Allsmiller who was able to do the same. A hard drive to the basket by Matias led to an and-one opportunity giving the Eagles a 13-2 lead after just six minutes had ticked off the clock.

App State struggled in the first half as they tried to keep up with a fast-paced Eagle offense that posted nine steals in the half. The Mountaineers went 0-6 from three-point range, and shot 23 percent. Their highest scorer was Jacob Lawson who had six points, while five other players added one basket apiece.

Georgia Southern featured a very stubborn defense throughout the first half as well. The Mountaineers were only able to tally 16 points while turning the ball over 11 times during the 20 minutes. The Eagles went on to double that score and go into halftime with a comfortable 33-16 lead.

The Eagles came out of the locker room looking a little slow compared to the first half. However, that didn’t mean the points wouldn’t keep rolling. Just 2:22 into the half, freshman guard Mike Hughes stole a pass at half court and took it down for the easy layup.

The three-pointers seemed like they would never stop as the Eagles went 10-13 from beyond the arc. Hewitt hit his stride and sank five in the second half. Additionally, the Eagles didn’t have any trouble down-low as they went on to score 38 points in the paint.

With 9:24 left in the half, Georgia Southern went on a 16-4 run filled with baskets from three-point range. At one point, Eric Ferguson shot a 3-pointer from the corner as Jelani Hewitt called the shot by putting three fingers in the air as the ball went through the net. From that point on, Georgia Southern knew the game belonged to them.

“I just have confidence in those guys. I see their work ethic, how hard they work and I see them get extra shots. So when he let it fly and I seen the arc on it, I knew it was good,” Hewitt said of Ferguson’s shot.

The Eagles take this victory and will return to Hanner on Saturday, Jan. 31 to take on Arkansas Little Rock at 7:30 p.m. EST.

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