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GSU Powers way to fifth straight win
112607 GSU HOOPS 1
Georgia Southern guard Willie Powers drives past Mercer's Calvin Henry during the Eagles' home opener Monday night. Powers, a true freshman led the team with 26 points as the Eagles won their fifth straight, 80-69. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    Willie Powers had never played in Hanner Fieldhouse, and he thought he knew what to expect.
    But the scene that ensued Monday night was far better than the freshman guard ever imagined. An electric crowd of 2,284 was the backdrop for Powers’ career night, which helped the Eagles to an 80-69 win over non-conference foe Mercer.
    “I heard it was crazy, but I didn’t expect it to be at this level,” said Powers, whose 26 points and seven rebounds were both personal bests. “That really helped us.”
    It was the fifth-straight win for the Eagles, who improved to 5-1 — their best start since the 1992-93 season under former coach Frank Kerns.
    Powers helped carry Georgia Southern through a lackluster first half, putting up 17 points and three 3-pointers in the opening period. The Gainesville, Fla., native finished 10-for-16 from the floor, knocking down 4 of 6 3s. Georgia Southern’s 80 points were a new season high for the Eagles, who entered the game looking to get a better showing from their offense.
    “He certainly doesn’t play like a true freshman,” GSU coach Jeff Price said. “He’s got good poise, and he makes shots. Obviously he’s got a chance to be a special player. He’s got things he’s got to get better at, but he’s a hard worker and he’ll continue to get better.”
    Georgia Southern showcased plenty of weapons as three players finished with double figures and nine different Eagles scored. Senior guard Dwayne Forman added 16 points and senior forward Louis Graham finished with 14.
    “I think that’s starting to become a trademark of our team — we’ve got good balance inside and out, particularly when we shoot the ball well, which we did tonight,” Price said.
    The Bears (1-5) knocked off Southern California on the road earlier this season but struggled to overcome the loss of their leading scorer James Florence, who was suspended for violating team rules.
    After opening the game with seven unanswered points, the Eagles weathered an early 12-2 Mercer run before three straight 3-pointers — one from Powers and back-to-back shots by Foreman — late in the first half put GSU on top 31-28. The Eagles never trailed again, taking a 39-35 lead into the locker room.    
    “I thought we were very fortunate to be up because I didn’t think we played well,” Price said. “We were really poor in the first half.”
    Price’s players expected their coach to come into the locker room yelling and screaming, but he threw them off by calming telling them to be more aggressive. The Eagles listened, pulling down 11 more offensive rebounds and taking 11 more free throw shots after halftime.
    The Eagles finally broke loose as Krzysztof Janiszewski’s jumper with 12:25 remaining gave the Eagles a 61-51 edge and ignited the home crowd, which roared with approval.
    The cheers grew even louder less than three minutes later when Forman sank a 3, Antoine Johnson connected on a reverse layup, Anthony Marshall hit another 3 and Janiszewski sank a layup to push GSU’s lead to 71-54.
    The Eagles return to Southern Conference play Saturday, hosting Appalachian State in a 3 p.m. game (SportSouth).