Men’s basketball falls in opener

Layne Saliba

The final score didn’t reflect how close this game actually was. Nonetheless, the Georgia Southern Men’s Basketball team (0-1) gave the University of Illinois its first win of the season on Friday with a final score of 80-71.

The Eagles found themselves in a hole, trailing by 11 points during the first half. However, they were able to even out the score at 31 points going into halftime, after an exciting 11-2 run.

As the second half began, redshirt senior forward Trent Wiedeman made his presence known on the court, giving the Eagles the momentum they needed. But it was Illinois, led by Rayvonte Rice, that pulled away late, taking the game just out of reach.

Turnovers and fouls continue to be an issue for the Eagles. Four players ended the night with four fouls each, contributing to the team’s 27 overall. These mistakes gave the Fighting Illini the opportunity to make the most of 37 appearances at the free-throw line.

In addition, the Eagles seemed to have freely given the ball over by way of turnovers. Illinois was able to capitalize on 16 Eagle turnovers for 22 points before the night was over.

“We had some nervous guys make some nervous mistakes early and that is going to happen,” Head Coach Mark Byington said in a news release. “I like that our guys battled through mistakes and played well tonight. Overall I was happy with our guys out-rebounding Illinois, but we gave up too many turnovers for points.”

A veteran group of guys, joined by freshman guard Mike Hughes started the game for the Eagles. Among them, senior guard Jelani Hewitt stood out the most. He led the way for the Eagles and controlled the tempo throughout, scoring 22 points and recording a career-high eight rebounds on the night.

Alongside Hewitt was Wiedeman. In his first start as an Eagle, and first game in almost two years, Wiedeman was able to post 17 points and lead the team in rebounds with nine during 33 minutes of play.

Senior forward Angel Matias was there to help Wiedeman as well. Matias put up 12 points and added 7 rebounds to the Eagles’ 41.

The Eagles look to even their record tonight as they host Trinity College in Hanner Fieldhouse at 7:30.