By SCOTT CHANCEY
The start to Georgia Southwestern's basketball season had its share of challenges.
Hurricanes coach Mike Leeder knew his team had to rebound better, stress more containment on defense and simply get off to a good start. In the opener against West Alabama, however, none of those goals were met as the Tigers won, 76-63, in Monday night's season opener for both teams.
In the previous two seasons, the Hurricanes had been last in rebounding and also struggled in defensive field-goal percentage.
West Alabama outrebounded GSW, 27-20, and shot 61.1 percent for the game.
"It was a lot of putbacks and confusion on ball-screen
situations," Leeder said.
It also did not help the Hurricanes that West Alabama even shot and even better percentage (61.5 on 8-of-13 shooting) from beyond the arc.
"They made their shots and kept us at bay with their ability to rebound, and that kept us from getting within eight or six points and being able to make a run."
West Alabama was led by Richard Sirju's 20 points and 6-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc. Jason Swanson also added 19 points.
The Hurricanes, who fell behind, 11-4, by the time Monday's game was four minutes old, played their way back to within, 17-15 on a 3-pointer by Ric Roderick. West Alabama, however, set the tone itself by answering with jumpshots by Jason Swanson and Trevell Coleman.
Starting Georgia Southwestern point guard Damaryius Adside could not play Monday due to an injured foot, greatly impacting the depth of Leeders' team.
"We just don't' have enough guys, and those early leads they had on us really put us in a hole," Leeder said. "When you want to play with no margin of error, that just makes it that much more difficult."
Georgia Southwestern got within single digits only one other time Monday, and that was via two Derrick Edwards free throws. The Tigers simply answered with a trey by Sirju.
Chris Rawls, who led GSW with 15 points, could not remember the Sirju's jersey number. However, he could remember the shot.
"He had a great jumper," Rawls said. "Even when we were hitting, he was making some incredible shots. They are a veteran team and they proved it (Monday)."
Evan Mobley scored 14 for Georgia Southwestern, followed by Edwards with 12 and Marcus Scott with 11.
The Hurricanes are back in action on Friday against Florida Memorial at Valdosta State University's P.E. Complex.