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Eagles come up short
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Western Carolina guard Preston Ross, top, forces Georgia Southern's Eric Ferguson into a turnover as he goes to the floor in the first half at Hanner Fieldhouse Wednesday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

 

Both teams were hunting for their first Southern Conference win, and Western Carolina capitalized each and every time Georgia Southern allowed it.

The Eagles turned over the basketball 21 times as the Catamounts won for the first time in the last six tries at Hanner Fieldhouse and broke a six-game losing streak of their own with an 81-58 win Wednesday.

Georgia Southern (4-12, 0-3 SoCon) turned over the ball 13 times in the first half alone. Western Carolina scored 21 points off turnovers and nine off of offensive rebounds on the way to a 48-28 halftime kead.

"The best time to score is when there’s nobody down on the other end," said GSU coach Charlton Young. "We turned the ball over and they got three-on twos and two-on-ones. That’s how they were able to score."

The Catamounts (5-10, 1-2) took 32 shots from the floor and made 18 on a 56.3-percent clip in the first half. They made more field goals in the first 20 minutes than the Eagles (7 for 15) attempted.

The Eagles, who trailed by 27 against Auburn at the half on Dec. 29 only to come back and lose in overtime, and trailed by 16 against Eastern Kentucky Sunday, falling eventually, 79-73, never got back into this one.

"We’ve been in tough situations all season," Young said, "and we’ve never responded like this."

Western finished the contest shooting 53.4 percent to GSU’s 43.9, and the Eagles were just 20 for 37 from the foul line.

Georgia Southern saw only two players reach double digits. Junior guard Ben Drayton finished with 11 after scoring 10 in the first half, and freshman Eric Ferguson, who hit 9 of 11 free throws, had a team-high 21. It was the fifth time this season Ferguson led the team.

Western was led by freshman guard Trey Sumler, who led the game with a career-high 23 points. Forward Ritchie Gordon added 18, Mike Williams added 12 and Brandon Boggs added 10.

After Drayton and Ferguson, Georgia Southern’s starters combined for just 13 points.

"We’re going right into the locker room tonight," Young said. "I don’t care if we’re there until one o’clock in the morning. We’re going to watch every play and we’re going to learn from it."

The Eagles will seek their first conference win and first road win of the season when they face Appalachian State Saturday at 2 p.m. in Boone, N.C.

 

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