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GSU men remain hot with big win

At the start of the Georgia Southern men’s basketball team’s season, people throughout Statesboro and the Southern Conference referred to the Eagles’ Big Three: Willie Powers, Ben Drayton and Eric Ferguson.

It’s now the Big Four, GSU head coach Charlton Young said Monday night after sophomore guard Jelani Hewitt scored a game-high 16 points to lead the Eagles to a 64-57 victory over Furman.

"A lot of people say the Big Three, but we’ve got the Big Four," Young said, referring to the 6-foot-2 sophomore from Miramar, Fla. "Jelani Hewitt in the last month has become a bona fide star in our league. … He deserves the respect of a Willie Powers, Ben Drayton, Eric Ferguson. With those four guys, they can manufacture points.

"Our perimeter, we really had to work to get Jelani doing more off the dribble, getting him to attack the paint. Because, if you remember earlier in the year, he was kind of turning into a spot shooter."

A Hanner Fieldhouse crowd of 1,906 watched as GSU (11-12, 9-4) moved into sole possession of second place in the SoCon’s South Division. The Eagles did it with their victory over Furman (12-12, 6-7) combined with Davidson’s 76-54 victory over Wofford on Monday night. Wofford (15-10, 8-5) is in third place in the SoCon South, while Davidson (18-5, 12-1) is in first place.

Drayton scored 13 points, Powers added 11 points, and Ferguson had 11 points to go with a game-high 11 rebounds, his fourth double-double this season, as GSU improved to 6-0 at home in SoCon games. The Eagles also extended their winning streak to three games.

"A lot of teams are going to be keyed in on Eric Ferguson, Willie Powers and Ben Drayton, so I’ve got to do my part and get to the paint and make something happen, and try to make plays for them and for us," Hewitt said. "That’s what I tried to do tonight."

Furman led by as many as 10 points in the first half, but GSU tied the game at 34 at halftime.

"We just had to turn it up," Hewitt said. "We’re at home. We’ve got out fans here. Once we got them into the game it was a rout from there."

In the second half, GSU produced a 21-3 run for a 59-47 lead.

"Defensively, we really turned it up," Young said. "We held them to 26.7 percent (8-of-30-shooting from the field) in the second half, which is very difficult to do. (Furman is) good. They’re big, they’re strong, they’re physical, and they’ve got a lot of shooters. So I was very proud that our guys decided that they were going to stop them.

"(Furman is) so physical. In the first half, they pushed us off everything we wanted to do. In the second half, we kind of wore them down. And we got better from a screening standpoint. We kind of started to have our way in the paint."

GSU outscored Furman, 10-6, in the paint in the first half. The Eagles outscored the Paladins, 28-10, in the paint in the game. GSU outrebounded Furman, 36-30.

"We’ve grown, we’ve matured, where we can handle a physical game and still play," Young said. "That’s huge for this team."

Furman was led by Bobby Austin, who scored 13 points. Brandon Sebirumbi added 10 points and a team-high eight rebounds.

GSU’s next game is at 7 p.m. Thursday against Wofford at Hanner Fieldhouse.


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