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Sluggish second half dooms GSU

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Georgia Southern Men’s Basketball fought tooth-and-nail with Furman on Thursday (Feb. 10th) night but fell 54-45 to the Paladins at Timmons Arena. The Eagles trailed by three points with 4:51 left, but a 9-0 run to gave Furman a lead that would not be relinquished. Sophomore Zuri James (Stone Mountain, Ga.) scored 16 points as junior Ben Drayton III (St. Marys, Ga.) scored nine with nine rebounds and nine assists to end his 14-game double-figure scoring streak.

"I’m so proud of our team for not quitting through adverse circumstances tonight," said Eagles Head Coach Charlton "C.Y." Young. "The first five minutes of the second half really hurt us tonight. We had great energy on the bench tonight. Jelani (Hewitt) had a tough start but his teammates rallied around him and picked him up."

James matched his performance from earlier this season against Furman (18-7, 10-4 SoCon) by once again shooting 4-of-12 from the bonusphere for Georgia Southern (4-22, 0-13 SoCon). The second time around, however, he also added four points from inside the perimeter. Drayton matched a career high with nine rebounds and set a season high with nine assists. With one more in each of the major categories, he would have posted the first triple-double for the Eagles in recent memory.

Senior Rory Spencer (Atlanta, Ga.) was one of three Eagles with five points. He also added six rebounds and a block. Freshman Eric Ferguson (Statesboro, Ga.) had five points while Jelani Hewitt (Oakland Park, Fla.) scored five with a block and a steal.

James led all scorers at the halftime break with 11 at the intermission. He splashed three from downtown as the Eagles trailed by two points at the break, 24-26.

Georgia Southern and Furman shot identical .375 marks (9-for-24) from the field while the Eagles went 3-for-9 (.333) to Furman’s 2-of-8 (.250). The Eagles led 17-15 in rebounds at halftime with a 7-4 advantage in offensive rebounds.

Out of the halftime break, Furman pieced together a 9-2 run to take a nine point lead, 35-26, at the 16:49 mark. Georgia Southern, however, scored five unanswered points to slash the lead to four just three minutes later.

The lead hovered around a five-point margin through the middle portions of the second half until a pair of free throws from freshman Marvin Baynham (Miami, Fla.) cut the lead to three points at 4:51, 43-40. The points were Baynham’s only scoring of the night.

Furman opened up the game with a 9-0 run which gave the Paladins their largest lead of the night, 51-40, with under two minutes remaining in the game. An inside jumper by Drayton ended the run and cut the lead to nine points. Furman erased the bucket with a pair of free throws at 1:05.

Inside a minute remaining, Ferguson made a layup and drew a foul with 50 seconds left. He converted the free throw to cut Furman’s lead to 53-45. The Paladins converted one of two from the charity stripe at the other end, but a missed jumper by the Eagles allowed Furman to run out the clock and hold on for the victory.

The Eagles defense allowed the fewest point total of the season and Georgia Southern out-rebounded Furman, 36-34. The impressive number was Georgia Southern’s season-high 17 offensive rebounds.

Free throws were scarce for the Eagles who went 6-for-9 from the stripe. Furman was 16-of-23 as GSU was carded for 21 fouls to Furman’s eight.

Georgia Southern shot just .286 in the second half to post a .327 average from the field for the night. Furman went .333 in the second period and .356 overall from the field. From downtown, Furman carried a .353 to .278 lead.

GSU continues on the regular season's final road swing with a 7 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 12th) game against Wofford before closing the road schedule against Davidson (Feb. 16th). The Eagles return home for three-straight home games starting on Feb. 19th against The Citadel.

Fans may follow Georgia Southern Men's Basketball by visiting GeorgiaSouthernEagles.com/basketball or check in at twitter.com/GSAthletics for short updates. Live stats and video are available at GeorgiaSouthernEagles.com.

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