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GSU opens SoCon slate with Phoenix

Elon (4-2) at Georgia Southern (2-3)
7 p.m., 103.7 FM
Hanner Fieldhouse

    The first 50 students through the door with a valid student ID will receive a free ticket for Saturday’s football game compliments of Retrievers Sports Bar and Grill in Statesboro. The student gate opens at 6 p.m. and the first 50 students will also receive a $5 gift voucher for wings at Retrievers.
    Fans can also get their picture taken with Gus in his Santa Claus costume in the lobby of Hanner Fieldhouse beginning at 6 p.m.   
    The Phoenix are one week removed from a 65-53 victory over South Carolina.

Southern Conference Basketball Standings
Team                    SoCon  All    

Elon                            0-0   4-2
Western Carolina         0-0   2-4
Chattanooga                0-0   2-4
UNC Greensboro        0-0   1-4
Appalachian St.           0-0   1-4
Samford                      0-0   1-6
Team                     SoCon  All  
Citadel                         0-0   3-2
Charleston                    0-0   3-2
Davidson                      0-0   3-3
Furman                         0-0   2-3
Ga. Southern               0-0   2-3
Wofford                        0-0   2-5  

Today's Games
    Duquesne at Appalachian State, 2 p.m.
    North Carolina A&T at UNCG, 7 p.m.
    Elon at Georgia Southern, 7 p.m.
    Western Carolina at Furman, 7 p.m.
    Winthrop at Wofford, 7 p.m.
    Charleston at Charleston Southern, 7:30 p.m.
    Florida Gulf Coast at Samford, 8 p.m.

    Georgia Southern dominated at Hanner Fieldhouse during the 2011-12 season.
    Wednesday, the Eagles open Southern Conference play at 7 p.m. against an Elon team which recently knocked off South Carolina, 65-53.
    "I think our guys understand the importance of the game," said GSU coach Charlton Young. "We expect to win in Hanner. Last year we were 11-2, and our short-term goal is to get better every game and go undefeated at home."
    The Eagles (2-3), despite losing, 70-53 Saturday at Maryland, finished plus-8 in the turnover margin and trailed by     three at halftime.
    "We turned Maryland over 20 times," Young said. "They were very uncomfortable with our pressure. We needed to stay within 10 on rebounds, but we didn't, so we lost."
    The undersized Eagles were out-rebounded handily, 45-23, in the game against the Terps. Young doesn't think it's all bad, as early adversity in 2011 helped GSU finish 12-6 in SoCon play last season, tied for the second-best record in the league.
    "When you compete at a level that high, it improves you — your habits, your physicality," Young said. "We think we can win some of these non-conference games this year. I think that in year four, we've finally gotten where we're not intimidated by what logo is on somebody's chest or their nice arena."
    Senior point guard C.J. Reed, who averages 8.4 points per game, found his stroke at Maryland, leading the team with 15 points.
    "He's the best decision maker we have in the program," Young said. "When the ball's in his hands, we're in pretty good shape."
    Reed and the Eagles will need to turn towards defense against Elon (4-2). The Phoenix have been successful when they are hitting 3s. They are averaging nine 3s per game.
    "They shoot the ball," Young said. "In order to beat Elon, you can't give up 3s. And you've got to defend without fouling, which is a difficult combination. If somebody hits nine or 10 3s a game, they're going to beat you."
    The first 50 GSU students through the door will receive a free ticket to Saturday's football playoff game against Central Arkansas at 2 p.m. in Paulson Stadium.

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-4908.