GREENSBORO, N.C. - The Georgia Southern Men's Basketball team recorded 12 steals on the night but could not steal the victory on Thursday night, January 20th, at UNC Greensboro, falling 87-75. Freshman Eric Ferguson (Statesboro, Ga.) returned to form with 24 points with a pair of blocks and thunderous dunks. Junior Ben Drayton III (St. Marys, Ga.) chipped in 17 points and had eight assists as he narrowly missed his first double-double of the season.
"We got off to a great start tonight," said Eagles Head Coach Charlton "C.Y." Young. "We put good pressure on them all game, but they really wore us down at the end of the night. Our team is getting better and we're going to get our breakthrough win soon."
The Eagles (4-16, 0-7 SoCon) had two leads early, but saw both advantages evaporate in the first half. UNC Greensboro (3-15, 3-5 SoCon) shot 64 percent in the second half to outscore the Eagles by eight points in the final period of the game.
Sophomore Zuri James (Stone Mountain, Ga.) reached double-figure scoring for the third consecutive game with 11 points and three assists. Freshman Jelani Hewitt (Oakland Park, Fla.) logged half of Georgia Southern's steals with six to go along with his nine points. Marvin Baynham (Miami, Fla.) added six points for his highest scoring output in the last three games.
Senior Rory Spencer recorded a block in the first half which moved him into a share of fourth-place on the Georgia Southern all-time blocks list. He has 86 blocks in little more than a season and a half with the Eagles.
Ferguson's strong performance came as he converted on 8-of-12 attempts from the field and 12-of-13 from the free throw line. The freshman also led the Eagles on the boards with six. His two blocks give him 17 and a share of fifth place on the GSU freshman blocks chart.
To open the game, Georgia Southern sprinted out to a 7-0 lead in the game's first three minutes before the Spartans were able to level the score at 9-9 by the 14:20 mark. Ferguson put the lead back to six points at 12:31 when his thunderous dunk quieted the Spartan faithful. The lead, however, would be short-lived as the Spartans rallied to tie the score at 32 all inside of four minutes.
A 12-3 run by UNCG gave it a three-point lead in the waning moments of the first half. James picked up a steal and fed Hewitt who drained a buzzer-beater to trim the UNCG lead to four, 43-39.
Coming out of the halftime break, the Eagles cut slightly into the advantage before the first media timeout, but saw the Spartans go on a 15-4 run to take a 63-48 lead by the 11:18 mark. During the run, GSU went nearly five minutes without a field goal.
Georgia Southern was hampered by seven second-half turnovers, but secured seven second-half steals and was buoyed by a 83.1 shooting percentage from the charity stripe. GSU made 26-of-32 free throws, including 19-of-23 in the second half.
The Spartan lead grew to as many as 17 on two separate occasions before Georgia Southern mounted a rally with its points coming from the free throw line. With their 19 points from the line in the second half, the Eagles sliced the UNCG advantage to 10 with 4:01 remaining. UNCG took the 12-point victory as Georgia Southern could not add to its point total from the field in the last five minutes.
The Eagles close out the road swing with a Saturday night contest against Elon on January 22nd. The game from Alumni Gym starts at 7 p.m. The "Voice of the Eagles" Chris Blair will have play-by-play commentary of the game live on 102.9 WMPX FM and online at GeorgiaSouthernEagles.com/Eaglevision starting on Saturday night at 6:30 p.m.
GSU returns to Stateboro and plays host to legendary head coach Bobby Cremins and College of Charleston at Hanner Fieldhouse Wednesday, January 26th at 7 p.m.