Southern Conference Basketball Standings
Team SoCon All
Chattanooga 4-0 10-8
Western Carolina 3-0 10-8
Davidson 3-0 7-10
Elon 2-1 9-8
UNC Greensboro 2-1 9-9
Wofford 2-2 7-9
Georgia Southern 1-1 8-9
Samford 1-3 7-12
Appalachian State 0-3 4-12
Citadel 0-3 4-14
Furman 0-4 6-11
Western Carolina 68, Georgia Southern 67
Davidson 78, Appalachian State 66
Elon 74, The Citadel 65
Samford 57, Furman 55
Chattanooga 70, Wofford 69
Georgia Southern didn’t make a 3-pointer in the first 38 minutes, 30 seconds of the game and the two that went in came too late as Western Carolina left Hanner Fieldhouse with a 68-67 win on Saturday afternoon.
Despite making only 2 of 15 3s, the game was lost at the foul line, as the Eagles (8-9, 1-1 Southern Conference) made only 17 of 29 freebies. They made 7 of their last 8 and 14 of 18 in the second half, including a pair by Tre Bussey that cut the WCU lead to 66-64 with 40 seconds to go, but Trey Sumler sank a jumper with 13 seconds on the clock to give Western (10-8, 3-0) a 68-64 lead after the Eagles elected not to foul in the final 40 seconds of the game.
“There was a 5.9 second differential between the shot clock and the game clock. With 5 seconds we could definitely get the ball down the floor,” GSU coach Mark Byington said. “They’re a very good free-throw shooting team and they were in the double bonus. Looking at the chance to foul them I’m thinking they’re at least going to make one, so we thought with 5.9 seconds we could get a rebound, maybe make them shoot it early and we could take it down the court. We didn’t get the right stop. It was a crucial stop and we didn’t get it. Hopefully we can learn from that.”
“Basketball is a game of inches, especially in league play, and we have to make those plays down the stretch,” GSU guard Jelani Hewitt said. “Our guys will learn from it. League play is not going to be easy throughout the season.”
Hewitt, who led all scorers with 23 points, drilled a 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds to go, but despite Sumler missing both free throws on the other end, GSU was left only with enough time for a full-court heave by Kyle Doyle that hit the shot clock as time expired.
With the 3s not falling, the Eagles scored 34 points in the paint. Bussey finished with 14 points and point guard Brian Holmes and forward Angel Matias each added 11.
“We were getting to the cup, we were getting fouled — we got in the double bonus early — and we were making free throws in the second half,” Hewitt said. “We weren’t scoring outside, so we attacked inside.”
Despite bad shooting from long distance (0 for 7) and worse shooting from the free-throw line (3 of 11) in the first half, the Eagles took a 29-27 lead into the locker room.
“I think sometimes it’s contagious,” Byington said about the first-half shooting at the foul line. “A guy goes up there and misses and the next guy feels more pressure to make it. The free throws in the first half were almost like turnovers because we kept getting empty possessions.”
The Catamounts didn’t score for the game’s first 4:03 while GSU built a 5-0 lead. Western responded with a 10-0 run and took the lead on a layup by forward Tawaski King.
The game flowed back and forth from there with four ties until a 3-pointer by Tom Tankelewicz and another King layup put WCU ahead 21-16. The Eagle responded in the paint with a 10-2 run that included layups by Kyle Doyle, Hewitt and Bussey. A Bussey floater put the Eagles up 24-23, and a basket by Hewitt gave the Eagles a one-point advantage at the break.
The Catamounts stormed ahead early in the second half on an 8-0 run that included 3s by Brandon Boggs and James Sinclair and three GSU turnovers.
Sinclair led Western with 15 points, and Boggs and Sumler each added 13.
Georgia Southern returns to action on Thursday against Furman at 7 p.m., in Hanner Fieldhouse.
NOTES: Newly-hired Georgia Southern football coach Willie Fritz was introduced at Hanner Fieldhouse in front of a crowd of 1,372. … The Eagles out-rebounded WCU 34-33. They have rebounded each of the two SoCon teams they’ve faced so far this season.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.