Since the opening tip of the 2010-11 basketball season, nothing has come easily for Georgia Southern.
The biggest problem for the Eagles as they dropped each game of a six-game road trip that featured matchups against Texas Tech and South Florida, was the loss of two post players, Rory Spencer and Cameron Baskerville, to injury.
Both are expected to return tonight, as GSU faces Brewton-Parker (1-6) at 7 p.m. in Hanner Fieldhouse.
Spencer, the team’s only senior currently on the floor, was leading the Eagles (2-7) in scoring (16 points per game), rebounding (6.2) and blocked shots (2.5). He and Baskerville missed each of the last three games.
Without them, point guard Ben Drayton (15.9 ppg) is the only returning player in the lineup.
“If those guys were in place, we wouldn’t have to depend on Sam Mike or Tre Bussey, and that’s a tough position to put a true freshman,” said GSU coach Charlton Young. “We’ve been playing with six freshmen and three walk-ons, and I think the experience will pay dividends later in the year.”
Also affecting the play of the team is the leading scorer from a season ago, Willie Powers, who will miss the entire season due to a preseason injury.
Drayton and true freshman Jelani Hewitt inherited the point guard role.
“Our point guard play has got to get better,” said Young. “Jelani Hewitt is young, and Ben Drayton has always been more of a two than a one. They don’t control the game like a Willie Powers would.”
In the most recent road tilt, the Eagles fell to Southern Conference rival College of Charleston (6-3, 2-0 SoCon), fell behind early end eventually lost 92-84.
“Once they get settled in, they play pretty well,” said Young. “Hopefully we’ll continue to get better, and hopefully in January we won’t be making the same mistakes we’re making in November and December.”
Aside from playing the first home game since Nov. 18, the Eagles hope to focus on fundamentals as they host their third-straight, lower-division team at Hanner.
Brewton-Parker plays in the Southern States Athletic Conference of the NAIA.
“This game is more about us,” said Young. “I know Brewton-Parker is going to be well coached and will come in and play hard. But we’ve got to get better defensively and find out how to take care of the ball.
“[The Eagles] don’t understand that in a high-level basketball game, you’ll get ran out of the building when you don’t play the game the right way. We’re continuing to learn to play the game the right way.”
True freshman shooting guard Eric Ferguson continues to lead GSU’s newcomers with 13.1 points per game. Hewitt (11.7 ppg) also averages double figures.
The biggest struggles have consistently been in turnovers, where GSU averages 18.2 per game, and in field-goal percentage, where the average opponent’s advantage is 48.4 percent to 43.8 percent.
“They have a chip on their shoulders. They’re fighters,” Young said about the Eagles. “They just don’t have the experience to draw from to make the right decisions, and basketball is so much about decision making.”
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.