Georgia Southern has one of the nation’s leading scorers in Jelani Hewitt, who ranks No. 16 with 22 points per game.
Hewitt and Tre Bussey average a combined 41.2 points per game, and along with point guard Brian Holmes, the Eagles have a combined 11 years of college basketball experience in the backcourt.
What the Eagles (5-6) have in experience, they lack in depth, as only seven players average more than 20 minutes per game, and nobody else averages more than 10.
Kennesaw State (3-8), which plays GSU today in Hanner Fieldhouse at 7 p.m., is almost the exact opposite, with 10 players — most of whom underclassmen — averaging double-digit minutes.
Junior guard Delbert Love leads the team in scoring with 10.5 points per game.
“With Jelani and Tre and Brian, we’ve got experienced guards,” GSU coach Mark Byington said. “With Kennesaw, they’re deep. They go 10 or 11 deep, they have size and they’ve got a lot of different guys who could have big nights.”
The Eagles are coming off a tough 84-62 road loss at UAB, the best rebounding team in the nation. Though UAB won the rebounding battle 47-35, the undersized Eagles had a slight edge on the offensive glass, which was equally good and bad news for Byington.
“We missed a lot of shots and we didn’t force them to miss shots, so that’s probably the difference in margin, but our box-outs and our effort in rebounding was great,” the GSU coach said. “The challenge is to do that every night, not just against the team that’s leading the nation in rebounding, but do it every single night.”
Georgia Southern was up and down against UAB, taking an early 8-2 lead and not trailing for the game’s first 8 minutes, but the first half ended on a 26-0 run by the Blazers which left the Eagles without a chance to recover.
“We got impatient and everybody tried to do it themselves instead of playing team basketball. We’ve got to rely on each other,” Byington said. “Right now we’re in a little bit of a rebuilding phase and we have no room for error, so anything that’s effort controlled, we just have to do it. Whether that be diving for a loose ball or running the floor or rebounding, those are the effort things we have to do.”
The Eagles have won two of their last three, and play three straight road games after facing Kennesaw to close out 2013. Beginning Jan. 4, against Samford, GSU will play 16 consecutive Southern Conference games.
Kennesaw State is on a three-game losing streak and is in the middle of a seven-game road trip. The Owls lost consecutively to Cincinnati, Kent State and Georgia Tech.
KSU has played one other SoCon this season. The Owls beat Chattanooga on the road, 73-69, on Nov. 19.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.