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GS Men's Hoops begins with a win
GS Basketball
Georgia Southern's Kamari Brown, left, and Gedi Juozapaitis begin to celebrate as the Eagles ice the game against Ball St. at Hanner Fieldhouse on Tuesday, Nov. 9. Brown and Juozapaitis were two of the six Eagles who scored in double figures. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Georgia Southern head basketball coach Brian Burg talked in the preseason about how much more chemistry the Eagle basketball team has and how they want to use their defense as their calling card. Both were on display in their season opener Tuesday as they took down Ball State 82-71 before a good crowd at Hanner Fieldhouse. 

The Eagles had balanced scoring as Gedi Juozapaitis led the way with 15 points and five other players finished the night in double figures. The Eagles came away with 12 steals and had five blocked shots as their defense helped turn up the heat late in the game.

“We had the ability to go through a full summer and preseason and we saw a lot of players make the jump,” said Burg. “We had six in double figures and a seventh with nine points. The ball was shared and moved and we shot a great percentage (52 percent). Defense is hopefully our identity. We got some points off steals tonight, but I also felt we gave up some easy baskets and that is something we have to correct.”

The Eagles trailed for much of the first half, but took their first lead with 4:50 left in the first half on a three pointer by Juozapaitis who had 12 first half points and ended the game with 15 points to lead the Eagles.

“It was great to be back out there on the court with a great full crowd out there tonight and they got really loud at times,” said Juozapaitis. “My shot was falling in the first half but wasn’t really falling in the second half. I still kept playing defense and tried to get other players involved. The good thing is we have plenty of other players who can score, we aren't just relying on one or two guys.”

The game went to the locker room tied at 41-41. The Cardinals took an early lead in the second half, but the Eagles pulled back ahead on a Kamari Brown three pointer with 13:34 left in the game. 

The Cardinals retook the lead on a three-point play by Payton Sparks with 7:54 left int he game, but the Eagles quickly regained the lead on a three pointer by Cam Bryant and would hold the lead the rest of the game.

Kaden Archie finished the game with nine points and made his presence known on the defensive end with two steals and two blocks. Archie brought the fans to their feet on a couple occasions including an impressive blocked shot on a dunk attempt by Ball State 6-9 center Payton Sparks and a breakaway dunk which extended the Eagle lead to 77-66 with 3:20 to go.

“It’s been such a long off season of work so it was great to finally get out there in front of our home crowd,” said Archie. “We have a very unselfish group of guys who like to share the rock. Everybody gets involved so it’s not surprising that six guys scored in double figures tonight.”

One of the complaints Burg had about last year’s team was he felt the Eagles had moments in games where they lost focus. Burg felt the Eagles showed plenty of progress in that regard Tuesday night. 

“I am proud of our players as they didn’t fracture during times of adversity tonight, we stuck together,” said Burg. “We took control late in the game by making some key plays and I thought that was great for our guys to stick together the entire 40 minutes.”

Next up for the Eagles they hit the road for South Florida for a noon tip off Saturday. The Eagles return home Tuesday for a 7:00 start against Bob Jones University.