The bad news wasn't necessarily that the Georgia Southern Eagles lost by a point to Western Carolina on Saturday.
The bad news was that it should’ve been an easy win for GSU.
The Eagles (8-9, 1-1 Southern Conference) missed 12 free throws and the first 13 3-point attempts in the game.
“You can probably bring up 30 plays in your mind you'd like to change,” GSU coach Mark Byington said. “At the same time, we were very competitive with one of the top teams in the league. We’re not trying to establish moral victories, but we’re trying to play good basketball, and we did that for a large portion of the game..”
Western Carolina took away the 3 and the Eagles adjusted, scoring 34 points in the paint, mostly by the guards.
The game was lost on the foul line.
“We work on it every single day,” Byington said about the team’s free throws. “If we have a poor night, it stays the same, if we have a great night, it stays the same. I don't want our guys to make it more difficult than what it is. We focus on the process and the routine. We’ll sneak in some more reps, but I don't want the guys to overthink it.”
The Eagles will have another chance to put it all together when Furman (6-11, 0-4) comes to town on a four-game conference losing streak.
“They have a new coach just like we’re going through, and you can see them building and establishing their program,” Byington said. “You can see them get better and better as you watch them.”
Furman is led by sophomore guard Stephen Croone, who averages 19 points per game.
The Eagles continue to be led by one of the nation’s top scorers in Jelani Hewitt (21 ppg) and Tre Bussey (18).
Byington hopes to see increased contributions from junior-college transfer Curtis Diamond (6.6 ppg) and freshman Torlof Thomas.
“Curtis has had good games and good moments,” Byington said. “Torlof has to have success in practice before it can carry over into the game. We’ve needed him at times this year and we’re going to need him, and we’re hoping for continued improvement.”
Tipoff against Furman is 7 p.m., in Hanner Fieldhouse.
Georgia Southern will welcome elementary and middle-school students with a “B” average or better will get into the game for free.
The same offer will be available on Saturday when GSU’s women face Davidson at 5 p.m.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.