CHARLESTON, S.C.--Derrick Henry and Brian White posted 16 points apiece, and The Citadel held off a furious rally in the final half minute of play from Furman, surviving a last-second three that could have forced overtime on All-SoCon guard Stephen Croone's 35-footer as time expired, allowing the Bulldogs to pick up their first Southern Conference win of the season, 89-86, over the Paladins Saturday afternoon at McAlister Field House.
The win saw the Bulldogs snap what was a six-game losing skid, improving to 8-10 overall and 1-4 in SoCon play. Meanwhile, the Paladins fell for the eighth-straight time on on the road, including the third in SoCon play, falling to 9-10 overall and 3-3 in SoCon action. Furman has now lost its last four road games by a combined 10 points.
It appeared it was going to be a much more fashionable win for the Bulldogs, who led 82-70 with 2:57 left and led by 10 points, at 87-77, with just 37 seconds remaining. However, just as it did at Mercer, the Paladins did not back down and almost did the unthinkable, using a relentless full-court press in the final 30 seconds to nearly complete a miraculous comeback.
The Paladins forced three Bulldog turnovers in quick succession to get back into the contest, with Daniel Fowler posting three points on a layup and a free throw, while Sibley had four points, which came on a layup and a pair of foul shots, and Croone had a driving a layup in the wild flurry by the Paladins, who cut a 10-point Citadel lead (87-77) to a mere point (87-86) in a 32-second span.
The Bulldogs did eventually get the ball in-bounds without the ball being stolen or committing an unforced error, and freshman guard P.J. Boutte was fouled with 3.9 seconds remaining. Boutte, who had been 0-for-4 in the contest, connected on both foul shots to give the Bulldogs a three-point lead. Furman's press, however, had at least given the Paladins a chance to tie the game on the game's final shot, as Sibley got the ball to the midde of the floor to Croone, who took a couple of dribbles and launched a three-pointer from about 35-feet a time expired and the ball hit the front of the rim, as the Paladins dropped their fourth road game in heartbreaking fashion on the road, and fell to 0-5 in games decided by six points or less this season, with three of those losses coming in league play.
The Citadel was able to hold on to the lead for most of the contest, with Furman holding one brief lead in the opening half of play, as the Paladins held three brief leads in the opening half of play, with the last lead of the game following a pair of Geoff Beans free throws, as Furman held a 28-27 lead with 5:05 remaining in the opening half. A quick 5-0 spurt by the Bulldogs, however, would give the Bulldogs a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the way, as a bucket by white and a three-point play the old-fashioned way would stake the Bulldogs back in front at 32-28 with 4:04 remaining in the half, and that would be the margin at the half, as the Bulldogs went to the locker room with a 41-37 lead.
For the game, the Paladins would connect on 46% (29-of-63) from the field, but struggled from three-point range, connecting on just 6-of-22 attempts to finish just 27.3% from long range. Additionally, the Paladins were just 64.7% (22-of-34) from the line, however, the Bulldogs managed only 59.4% (19-of-32) from the line.
Furman finished the game owning advantages in points in the paint (44-36), points off turnovers (18-17) and bench points (39-37), while the Bulldogs claimed advantages in rebounds (45-40) and second chance points (13-8). The Bulldogs held a slight shooting advantage over the Paladins, connecting on 48.4% (31-of-64) from the field for the game, and connected on 38.1% (8-of-21) from three-point range.
Croone, who entered the matchup as the leading scorer in the league in conference games, at 20.8 PPG, posted his fourth 20-point effort in six SoCon games, finishing with a game-high 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field, but went just 1-for-6 from three-point range. He also went 5-of-10 from the charity stripe in the contest.
The senior was joined in double figures by Devin Sibley, who recorded his fourth-straight game in double figures for Furman off the bench, posting 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field, including 2-for-3 from long range.
Matt Rafferty closed out the Paladins in double figure in the contest and posted his fifth-career double-double, as the freshman from Hinsdale, Ill, finished with 14 points and 10 boards.
In two of three Southern Conference losses this season, the Paladins have been out-rebounded, with last time out, which was a 69-65 loss at Mercer, the Paladins and Bears were even on the boards, 45-45. Henry was a big part of the rebounding edge the Bulldogs enjoyed on Saturday, tallying 10 boards to go with his 16 points to complete his first double-double performance of the season. Henry, who transferrred in from Winthrop, was a high school teammate of Croone's at Newton High School in Covington, GA.
Joining Henry and White in double figures was freshman point guard P.J. Boutte, who made some highlight-reel type plays, leading Duggar Baucom's high-octane offense in the win, finishing with 14 points. Boutte, who came in as the SoCon's assists leader, finished out the game dishing out a team-high six assists. Boutte's performance was reminiscent of some of the great point guards in the program's past, such as Lamar Wright, who starred for the Bulldogs in the early 1990s.
The Paladins will be off for a week before facing defending SoCon champion Wofford next week at Timmons Arena, while the Bulldogs will be in Cullowhee Monday night to face Western Carolina in a tip-off set for 7 p.m.