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Eagles knock off Mocs
120111 BKC GSU HOOPS 04
Chattanooga forward Lance Stokes, lower right, is helpless as Georgia Southern's Eric Ferguson slams through a lob pass in the second half at Hanner Fieldhouse Thursday.


Admit it. It’s OK. Charlton Young won’t hold it against you.

You didn’t think his Georgia Southern men’s basketball team, which brought a 1-4 record into its Southern Conference opener against Chattanooga on Thursday night, stood a chance.

After all, the Mocs were picked to finish first in the SoCon’s North Division in both the coaches and media preseason polls.

Admit it. You are surprised by GSU’s 84-76 victory over Chattanooga, a game the Eagles dominated, a game that was not nearly as close as the score suggests.

A Hanner Fieldhouse crowd of 1,476 watched as Young’s young Eagles finished with five players in double-figure scoring and improved to 2-4 overall, 1-0 in the SoCon.

GSU will play Appalachian State at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Hanner Fieldhouse.

"If we can stay focused and win this App. State game we’ll be 2-0 in the conference, and we’ll have a chance to have that happy feeling for a month, you know what I mean?" said Young, whose Eagles will play four road games after facing the Mountaineers and not return home until Jan. 2. "And that’s very important to this young team because we’re still, I mean, if you tallied up the percentage of freshmen and sophomores on our team, you’ll be blown away. We’ve got two seniors and a junior. Everybody else is straight from the prom."

GSU sophomore guard Jelani Hewitt scored 20 points, including a career-high six 3-pointers, to lead the Eagles along with senior guard Ben Drayton, who scored 20 points.

"We play hard for Coach (Young) and we play hard for ourselves," said Hewitt, a two-time Class 5A First-Team All-State selection from Miramar (Fla.) High School. "Our guys are hungry. We want a SoCon win. We only won one last year."

GSU sophomore forward Eric Ferguson scored 17 points, sophomore guard Tre Bussey came off the bench and chipped in 11 points, and senior guard Willie Powers added 10 points.

GSU, which was 14-50 in Young’s first two seasons at the helm, looked light years removed from the team that finished 5-27 last season, including 1-17 in the SoCon. The Eagles made a season-high 11 3-pointers. They led, 42-31, at halftime of a game in which the lead changed only one time.

"We needed to send a message that we’re going to be one of the teams that has a chance at winning the Southern Conference," Young said. "If you want to be in the Southern Conference race, you’ve got to hold your home court. We’ve got a long way to go. I am proud that five of our six games, we’ve grown tremendously. I thought there was only one game where we didn’t grow."

GSU snapped a two-game losing streak. The Eagles lost, 55-45, to Southern Methodist University on Sunday and fell, 66-46, to South Florida on Nov. 23.

The Eagles also ended a nine-game losing streak to Chattanooga. GSU’s last victory against Chattanooga was a 93-71 win Feb. 4, 2006.

Chattanooga (2-5, 0-1) was led by Ricky Taylor, who scored 16 points. Mocs guard Keegan Bell and guard Omar Wattad, who were selected to the Preseason All-SoCon Team, were held in check by GSU. Bell finished five points and two assists in a game-high 39 minutes of play. Wattad had 11 points, as did forward Drazen Zlovaric.

Young credited "a combination of Ben Drayton and Jessie Pernell" with limiting Bell.

"We just tried to wear him down because he really runs their engine," Young said.

Young said he hopes Eagle Nation will continue to support his team.

"We’ve got something special growing here in Statesboro," he said. "I was glad to see the community and student body come out. We probably had about 1,500, 2,000. I hope they continue to believe in this young team where we get 4,000 or 5,000 (fans) in here, and make it where we can’t lose at home."


Noell Barnidge can be reached at (912) 489-9408.


Lady Eagles fall to Appalachian St.


Georgia Southern AMR

BOONE, N.C. — Georgia Southern Women’s Basketball (2-5, 0-1) dropped its Southern Conference opener 64-45 at Appalachian State (5-1, 1-0) Thursday night at the Holmes Center. The Mountaineers converted 24 turnovers into 25 points and scored 15 second chance points to earn their fifth-straight win of the season.

"I just didn’t think we competed tonight," said Head Coach Rusty Cram. "Appalachian State came out ready to play. The turnovers and second chance points really hurt us. We did some good things tonight, but we didn’t get the consistency we need to compete against one of the league’s best teams."

Appalachian State jumped out to an early 14-4 lead behind two three-pointers and ten points from forward Anna Freeman. Georgia Southern responded with back-to-back layups by Samantha Williams (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Janay Wilson (Warner Robins, Ga.) to pull to within 14-8 with 13:23 remaining in the first half.

The Mountaineers went on an 8-2 run to go up 22-8, before back-to-back layups and a pair of free throws by sophomore Aishya Wofford (Augusta, Ga.) made it 22-14 with 5:18 remaining. Appalachian State swung momentum back their way with a 10-3 run, before freshman Anna Claire Knight (Dublin, Ga.) drained two buckets in the final minute to make it 35-22 at the break.

In the second half, Georgia Southern continued to struggle with turnovers and Appalachian State took advantage, extending the lead to 50-28 with 10:32 remaining. The Lady Eagles rallied to pull within 52-37 at the 6:13 mark, converting five free throws and a pair of field goals by Wilson and freshman Tashayla Steede (Marietta, Ga.). That’s as close as GSU would get, as the two teams traded baskets, before the Mountaineers finished on a 6-2 run for the final margin.

Georgia Southern resumes conference play at home on Monday, Dec. 5 when they take on Furman at Hanner Fieldhouse. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. and the conference matchup can be seen live on ESPN3.