Having dropped four out of five, including three of four on the road, the Georgia Southern Eagles needed a win.
It wasn’t pretty, but they got it.
Jelani Hewitt scored 26 points, Angel Matias matched his career high with 10 points and added nine rebounds, and the Eagles knocked off Brewton-Parker 75-66 on Wednesday in Hanner Fieldhouse.
“Sometimes it’s better to lose than to get a win like this,” first-year head coach Mark Byington said. “We’ve got to respect the game. I want us to focus on going on an uphill climb. Today, we played one of our worst games, and we were fortunate to win.”
“A win is always good,” Hewitt added. “We’ve got to correct some things as a team, we’ve got to come out and play harder — we come out and play slow sometimes — but we’ll correct it and get better.”
Tre Bussey added 21 points in the effort, and the Eagles (4-5) led throughout the second half.
Bussey and Hewitt are two of the top three scorers in the Southern Conference, each averaging more than 20 points per game.
“I think at this point in the season it’s becoming a habit, scoring that much,” Hewitt said, “We’re going to continue to be aggressive, and that’s what our team needs us to do.”
Brewton-Parker (5-5) was led by Darrie Stephens, who scored 18 points and added eight rebounds. Nick Plummer added 11 and Deion Bernard finished with 10.
The Barons out-rebounded Georgia Southern 36-33. It was the second game for the Eagles since forward Kameron Dunnican announced he was leaving the team to transfer.
“We miss him in a big way,” Bussey said about Dunnican. “He had the size and the rebounding. He plays hard, and it puts a little bit more pressure on everybody.”
With the Barons trailing by 11 at the half, the scoring went back and forth until an alley-oop from Brewton-Parker’s Justin Quarterman to Stephens for a dunk that cut the GSU lead to 7 at 57-50.
After a pair of Hewitt free throws, a 3-pointer by Kenny Cunningham cut the Eagles’ lead to 6. That was as close as it got for the Barons.
Hewitt answered on the other end by driving the lane for two, and after a Barons turnover, Marvin Baynham was given a technical foul after he missed a dunk and remained hanging on the rim.
Stephens missed both free throws and a Brewton-Parker turnover left the Barons with no points off the technical.
Hewitt drilled a 3 to put the GSU advantage back at 11. He was 4 of 8 from long distance
The Barons answered everything the Eagles threw at them in the opening minutes, playing to an 8-6 lead, but GSU went on a 9-0 run to break the game open that was capped off by a Tre Bussey 3 on an assist kicked out of the paint by Kyle Doyle.
The Barons trailed throughout the rest of the contest.
Brewton-Parker cut the momentum with a Stephens 3-pointer that broke a 5 minute scoring drought, but Hewitt drilled an NBA-distance 3 on the other end to give the Eagles a 20-11 advantage.
The Barons closed the gap to 25-20 with the help of a Stephens steal and one-handed slam at the other end, but GSU played to a 37-26 halftime lead with the help of 14 Brewton-Parker turnovers in the first half.
NOTES: Freshman guard Torlof Thomas started for the first time in his career. Point guard Brian Holmes continues to miss action with a nagging wrist injury. ... Hewitt and Bussey have each scored at least 20 points in seven of GSU’s nine games this season. … The Eagles improved to 3-1 at home. … Announced attendance was 1,220.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.