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Tourney time
Postseason begins for Eagles
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Georgia Southern guard Jelani Hewitt (5) saves a loose ball during a Feb. 22 game against Elon at Hanner Fieldhouse. Hewitt and the Eagles begin their 2014 Southern Conference tournament against Furman today at 1:30 p.m. in Asheville, N.C. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    This is it.
    Georgia Southern takes on Furman today at 1 p.m., at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, N.C., in the opening round of the Southern Conference tournament, and it will be the program’s last shot at a SoCon title before it joins the Sun Belt next season.
The Eagles have played in the SoCon tournament every year since 1993, and have never won it.
    In fact, they’ve have never made it to the league championship game.
    First-year head coach Mark Byington isn’t thinking about any of that.
    “We’re putting every single thing we have on Furman,” Byington said. “The only person who’s looked ahead has been one assistant coach scouting for Chattanooga. In everybody else’s mind, there’s nothing else.”
    The Eagles (13-18) swept Furman (9-20) in two matchups this season. Should it win, GSU will face Chattanooga (18-13) on Saturday at 6 p.m.
    If they get that far, the Eagles won’t be thinking about the Mocs until after Friday’s final horn.
    “If you’re fortunate enough to win, you smile for a second or two, and you’re off to the next one to do the same thing again,” Byington said. “I think any time you start looking too far ahead and you’re talking about three games or four games, whatever the case may be, usually you’re going home pretty early. You have to stay in the moment.”
    Senior Tre Bussey, a third-team, All-SoCon selection, is doing just that. He and the teams other two seniors — Brian Holmes and Marvin Baynham — as well as the SoCon’s top scorer Jelani Hewitt, intend to lead the team into the final run at the SoCon.
    “I just need to make sure everybody on the team takes it one day at a time, make sure everybody stays focused,” Bussey said. “I want to go to the finals, I want to win a championship. We’ve been really harping on focus and preparation, being ready. We feel like we can beat anybody.”
    At their best, the beat Chattanooga on the road 77-61. At their worst, they fell to The Citadel in one of the Bulldogs’ two league wins.
    “We’ve been inconsistent,” Byington said. “We know how to play good basketball, we just haven’t always done it.”
    “Me, Marvin, Holmes, Jelani, we’ve seen it all, we’ve had ups and downs, we’ve been there, we’ve done that,” Bussey added. “We just have to make sure we help the younger guys. When we find adversity, we have to make sure we’re ready for it.”

GSU women         face Wofford
    The Georgia Southern women’s team had a first-round bye all but locked up until the final stretch of the season, but dropped three straight against Western Carolina, Wofford and Furman.
    The Eagles (9-20) beat Wofford (6-22) 79-70 in the first meeting, but got blown out 73-49 on Feb. 28, in Spartanburg, S.C.
    “We played on our heels, which we haven’t been doing lately,” GSU coach Chris Vozab said. “Wofford is a very aggressive team off the bounce, and you have to be aggressive to defend that. When you get on your heels, you give them driving lanes and open looks. That’s what we did the other night, and I think we’ve learned a great deal from that.”
    The Eagles face Wofford at 11 a.m., today on the campus of UNC Asheville in the opening round of the tournament.
    A win in that game would set a date on Saturday at noon against Chattanooga (26-3), which hasn’t lost a SoCon game since Jan. 7, 2013 against Elon, a streak of 34-straight wins.

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