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GSU winning the battle of boards

GSU winning the battle of boards

GSU winning the battle of boards

Georgia Southern forward Kyle Doyle d...

    There are not many basketball teams that live up to the term “underdog” more than the Georgia Southern Eagles.
    They’ve played three conference games and won the rebounding battle in each game despite being undersized in all of them.
    The leading rebounder for the Eagles (9-9, 2-1 SoCon) is Angel Matias, a 6-foot-4, 225-pounder who plays about five inches taller than he is while pulling in 7 rebounds per game. Jelani Hewitt, a 6-foot-2 guard who is the SoCon’s leading scorer at 21 points per game, is next on the team with an average of 5.2 boards.
    With the exception of point guards Brian Holmes and Curtis Diamond, everybody on the team who averages more than 20 minutes per contest also averages roughly 5 rebounds per contest.
    Marvin Baynham and Sam Mike, who both stand at 6-foot-7 — on a good day — are the team’s tallest active players.
    “They feel like they’re the underdog every time the ball goes up,” GSU coach Mark Byington said about the Eagles. “They get in there, they scrap, they box out and they try to get it. Sometimes (the other team) is too tall and they get up high over our backs, but I feel like we try to do the right things all the time and really accept the challenge of rebounding. Hopefully it continues and they understand why they’re winning the battles, but it’s early in the season and bigger teams are on the horizon.”
    Appalachian State (4-13, 0-4) will play host to the Eagles today at 2 p.m., in Boone, N.C., and is yet another team with more size than GSU. Mountaineers’ leading rebounder Michael Obacha, who pulls in 9 boards per game, is one of four ASU players standing at 6-foot-8.
    He’ll be matched up with Baynham, whose slam dunk on Thursday against Furman helped put away the Paladins in the 88-81 overtime win. Baynham scores 6 points and grabs 5 rebounds per game.
    “Marvin does a lot of stuff that’s not on the stat sheet,” Byington said. “He has energy and he’s a very good defensive player. Even though he’s undersized he can move his feet.”
    The game will be the first conference road trip for the Eagles, who are 3-7 away from Hanner Fieldhouse this season.
    “Most of our preparation is mental,” Byington said. “It’s a tough environment, we know it’s a rivalry game and they’ll be up for playing us.”
    Before the overtime win against Furman, each of GSU’s conference games —an 80-79 win over Samford and a 68-67 loss to Western Carolina — were decided by one possession.
    To Hewitt, that’s just business as usual.
    “That’s what the league is all about,” Hewitt said after Thursday’s game. “We’ve got to get one on the road. Our guys will stay focused, we’ll take care of our bodies, get in the ice tub and be ready on Saturday.”

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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