NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Julius Jenkins scored 20 points to lead five Georgia Southern players in double figures as the Eagles opened the Southern Conference tournament with a 89-81 victory over Western Carolina on Wednesday.
Georgia Southern (16-12) next faces College of Charleston, the top seed of the league's South Division, in the quarterfinals at the North Charleston Coliseum on Thursday.
Kevin Martin, the conference's leading scorer this season, scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half as Western Carolina (9-19) cut an 18-point deficit to 72-66 with 2:19 left.
But Western Carolina's Jared Outing was called for an intentional foul on the next possession after the Eagles' Frank Bennett went down hard to the floor. Bennett made both foul shots and, with Georgia Southern retaining the ball, Jenkins found Prentice Mobley for a nice inside basket as the Eagles regained control.
Jenkins added seven assists and five rebounds for Georgia Southern, which has made the quarterfinals for all 10 of its seasons in the league.
Kordel Gibson had 15 points and Bennett 14 for the Eagles.
Martin got most of his points after the game looked out of reach with Georgia Southern comfortably in front 66-48. But the Catamounts sophomore scored 13 of his team's next 18 points to tighten things up.
It was the third time in the past four tournaments Western Carolina lost its opening game.