Georgia Southern’s first Southern Conference road trip didn’t go as expected.
The Appalachian State Mountaineers followed the game plan -- get the ball inside against the Eagles’ undersized forwards -- and also had a little bit of help on the perimeter, shooting 50 percent from 3-point range, nearly twice their season average in an 81-68 win on Saturday.
“Sometimes that happens,” GSU coach Mark Byington said. “They’re a team that averages three made 3s per game in the Southern Conference and they made 10. The ones in the first half were contested. They were tough shots. Then in the second half, they made some open ones and took advantage of the inside.”
Five Mountaineers scored in double figures as Appalachian (5-13, 1-4 SoCon) snapped a five-game losing streak and beat a Division I opponent for the first time this season.
The Eagles (8-9, 2-2) were also outrebounded for the first time this season in SoCon play.
“We’ve got to be tougher on defense and do more to give help on defense for our post players,” Byington said. “We didn't really play good basketball in the first half. We were out of rhythm, out of balance and I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it. We had foul trouble, traveling and some other things. We fought back hard in the second half and took the lead.”
Wofford (8-10, 3-3) is the next test for GSU, visiting Hanner Fieldhouse Thursday at 7 p.m.
The Terriers are coming off a huge win over Western Carolina after suffering back-to-back losses to Chattanooga. Head coach Mike Young is in his 25th season at Wofford, which won back-to-back SoCon titles in 2010 and 2011.
“Wofford has one of the best coaches in the country,” Byington said. “They have a great system and the players understand how they're going to score and where they're going to score. They execute and they’re one of the best defensive teams in the league.”
Byington hopes for fan support like the Eagles had on Jan. 16, in an overtime win over Furman that had a season-high 1,746 in Hanner Fieldhouse.
“Our fans helped us pull the win out against Furman,” Byington said.
Thursday’s game will be a “white out” in which fans are encouraged to wear white. The first 100 fans at the game will receive a free t-shirt. The white out has become an annual tradition against Wofford in Hanner Fieldhouse. Thursday is also the first night that Georgia Southern fans who renewed their 2014 football season tickets can pick up their commemorative poster as part of the incentives for renewing early. The ticket office will be in the Hanner lobby from 6 p.m. through halftime to answer questions and help fans renew or purchase their season tickets for 2014.
Georgia Southern guards Jelani Hewitt and Tre Bussey will each likely reach the 1,000-point bar during the game. Hewitt is two points away from the 1,000-point club, and Bussey needs seven.
The last Eagle to reach 1,000 career points was Eric Ferguson, who did it as a junior last season. Ferguson is sitting out this season with a redshirt, recovering from offseason surgery.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.