GREENVILLE, S.C.--Fresh off a pair of Southern Conference losses, Furman returns home where it is unbeaten in Southern Conference play this season, where it will face the two-time defending champion Wofford Terriers.
The Terriers have owned the Paladins of late in this rivalry, and the Terriers would seem to be catching a Paladin team at the right time, which is coming off of two-straight setbacks, and the Paladins have had a week to stew about the 89-86 loss at The Citadel.
That same Wofford squad had faced the Bulldogs a couple of nights earlier in the same building, however, it was Mike Young's Wofford Terriers which would survive to claim what was a hard-fought 86-83 win over The Citadel, avenging one of its two Southern Conference losses from a year ago.
Though the Terriers have owned the Paladins in the series as of late, the past two meetings have been decided by a total of five points combined. The Paladins have dropped all three Southern Conference games on the road this season, with each of those road setbacks coming by a combined eight points.
Wofford comes in having dropped games at Mercer (L, 70-69) and at home to Chattanooga (L, 77-68), which came a game after the Paladins handed the Mocs a 70-55 setback just 48 hours earlier. Since Wofford's current run of success, having claimed four of the past six Southern Conference crowns, the rivalry has seemingly been controlled by the Terriers, but that doesn't mean this rivalry has been one that hasn't been a heated one.
The rivalry has been one on and off the floor, with the school's battling for some of the league's top players over the past decade or so. One of the most noted players the two schools battled on the recruiting trail to get was Noah Dahlman, which ended up de-committing from Furman and committing to Wofford after Larry Davis left and then Niko Medved was not retained by Jeff Jackson.
Medved had originally gotten Dahlman and Cameron Rundles in a package deal to come to Furman, as the Paladins were starting a pipeline of getting good talent from that state, as Medved, who hails from the state of Minnesota, had already been able to go the state known for its lakes and steal Eric Webb (2003-06), who was the state's "Mr. Basketball" and ended up setting the program's all-time three-point field goals made mark.
When Dahlman and eventually Rundles ended up at Wofford, the duo was a major part of back-to-back Southern Conference title runs. Dahlman won back-to-back Southern Conference Player of the Year awards.
Last year's Southern Conference Freshman of the Year Devin Sibley, which ended up at Furman, was also highly sought after by the Terriers, but of course, ended up choosing Greenville instead of Spartanburg for his preferred destination to play his four years of college basketball. Geoff Beans was another Paladin player that was heavily recruited by Wofford, but Beans ended up in Greenville just like Sibley.
The most recent player sought after by both schools was Jordan Lyons, who ended up choosing Furman and might be the top freshman commitment in the SoCon so far for next season.
There is some links between the two staffs as well, with current Furman assistant and Peach State native Jay McCauley, who was a graduate assistant at Georgia before eventually joining the Wofford staff in 2009-10, helping the Terriers win a pair of Southern Conference titles. The 26 wins and 15 league victories were Division I records, which were of course broken by last year's Terrier club which won 28 games.
Dating back to start of the 2008-09 Southern Conference basketball season, the Terriers have been dominant in this series, winning 14 of the past 17 games against the Paladins, including six-straight dating back to a 69-65 win by the Paladins on Jan. 14, 2013 at Timmons Arena.
The Paladins are definitely making strides in this rivalry, but until they beat the Terriers on a consistent basis.
The Terriers hold a 6-2 record at Timmons Arena since the start of the 2008-09 season. Interestingly, Furman enters the matchup with more wins in this rivalry for the first time since the 2010-11 meeting in Greenville, which saw Furman enter the matchup with 20 wins, while Wofford had posted 18 victories.
In what was one of the biggest games at Timmons Arena in recent memory, as it determined who would get the final bye for the Southern Conference Basketball Tournament, and as has been the case in recent meetings with something on the line, the Terriers were able to allow themselves the luxury of bye in the tournament, with a 79-65 win in Greenville.
The Paladins would end up losing to the College of Charleston in the SoCon Tournament, while the Terriers went on to claim their second-straight Southern Conference title with a win over the Cougars in the title game. The bye that the Paladins were unable to come up with by winning their season finale against Wofford ended up likely costing the Paladins a chance to play Wofford again in the title game.
That meeting would come four years later in Asheville, where Furman was the first last seed to ever make the title game, facing top-seeded Wofford. Again, the Paladins didn't have the luxury of a bye in the opening round of the SoCon Tournament, and once again, though the Paladins would play valiantly, fell 67-64 in the title game. The two had met just a week earlier at Timmons Arena in the regular-season finale, with the Paladins playing without an injured Stephen Croone.
Despite not having Croone in the lineup, the Paladins fell by just two points, 62-60, to the Terriers. Many have made the argument that the Paladins might have just broken that losing streak with if Kris Acox hadn't gone down with a broken foot early on in the contest, as the Terriers were able to control the boards from that point.
A Quick Look At Last Sesason’s Three Meetings Between Furman and Wofford:
Game 1: WOFFORD 74, FURMAN 49 (Jan. 22, 2015/Benjamin Johnson Arena)
What Happened: For the third time in as many meetings in the series, Wofford recorded a demolition of better than 20 points against its Upstate SC rival, Furman, claiming a 74-49 win in a Southern Conference clash at Benjamin Johnson Arena Thursday night.With the win, Wofford improved to 15-5 and 6-1 in SoCon action, while Furman dropped to 5-13 and 3-5 in Southern Conference play with the setback. The win also improved Wofford to 9-0 on its home floor this season.The game came down to the league's top player, Karl Cochran, having one of those stretches where he became simply unstoppable for the Paladins, as he keyed a 25-6 first-half run for the Terriers, and it would be enough for the Terriers to take a 38-20 halftime lead.Cochran finished with 23 points, including 18 off of 6-of-9 shooting from three-point range as the senior helped the Terriers rally and respond to an early 7-2 run, which was primarily as a result of the rare four-point play, which came from Furman's talented junior guard Stephen Croone.
Game 2: WOFFORD 62, FURMAN 60 (Feb. 26, 2015/Timmons Arena)
What Happened: Playing without Stephen Croone, who missed the contest due to an abdominal strain, it didn't appear the Paladins would give the No. 49 team in the RPI much of a game, however, the Paladins would mature right before the eyes oft those who watched the contest between Furman and Wofford in the 2014-15 regular-season finale. Despite a combined 35 points from John Davis III (20 pts) and Devin Sibley (15 pts), the Paladins could not overcome a gritty performance by Wofford in what was a narrow 62-60 loss at Timmons Arena. Lee Skinnner led Wofford with 17 points, while Karl Cochran added 11.
Game 3: WOFFORD 67, FURMAN 64 (Mar. 9, 2015/SoCon Championship/US Cellular Arena)
What Happened: Furman and Wofford met for the first time ever in the Southern Conference, and fittingly, it would come in the Southern Conference Tournament title game. For the second time in a little over a week, the matchup between Wofford and Furman would come right down to the wire, and it would once again be the play of Lee Skinner that proved to be one of vital determining factors for the Terriers, as the senior posted 17 points to lead the Terriers to the win in the Southern Conference title game. Skinner finished the night connecting on 6-of-8 shots from the field and went 5-for-7 from the charity stripe to lead the Terriers.Skinner would be joined in double figures by Eric Garcia, who posted 15 points, while Southern Conference Player of the Year Karl Cochran finished with 11. points,Spencer Collins rounded out the double-figure scorers with 10 points. Skinner would go on to be named Southern Conference Tournament Most Outstanding Player.Previewing The Terriers:
Odds and Ends:
Wofford has lost only seven conference games in the past two seasons combined, but have already lost two of their first six in league play this season. In case you were wondering, since the start of the 2009-10 season, the Terriers have rarely lost back-to-back conference games. The last time it happened was the 2013-14 season, when the Terriers dropped back-to-back conference games to the same opponent, with a pair of losses to Chattanooga.
Those losses were separated by a week, coming nearly two years ago to the day, as Wofford took losses to the Mocs on Jan. 11 and 18 to UTC.
Having lost the last time out against Mercer, with a 70-69 setback to the Bears in Macon, and Terriers head to Timmons Arena with an expectation of victory. After all, the Terriers have a 79-33 record in league play since winning their first trip the NCAA Tournament in 2009-10.
The Terriers have posted winning seasons in five of the past six league seasons, with the only losing season in league play having been in the 2012-13 season, as the Terriers were just 7-11 in league play that season.
Furman, on the other hand, has losing conference campaigns in five of the past six seasons, and comes in with a 41-71 record in the past six plus seasons, counting the 3-3 start this season. Needless to say its a contrast in directions for two programs. The Paladins' lone winning season came in 2010-11, which was the same season that saw the Paladins win 22 games and qualify for the CIT. It's almost a complete reversal in the past 112 conference games for the two programs separated by about 25 miles.
But the fact is, Furman is gaining ground. But Wofford doesn't lose consecutive games. If you take out its only losing season of 2012-13, the Terriers have lost back-to-back conference games just three times since the start of the 2009-10 season.
Saturday afternoon's game at Timmons Arena is a tipping point kind of game for the Furman basketball program. A win would put them back in the thick of the Southern Conference race and tied for third in the league standings along with Wofford, and in great shape to garner a bye for the Southern Conference Tournament in March. A loss could exacerbate the snowball effect and the season might well end in a tailspin much like last season.
The pressure, strangely, is on Wofford. Furman has expectations for the season, and that comes without much question. However, Wofford is the two-time defending Southern Conference basketball champions and a third loss through the first seven games might set the warning flashers off in Spartanburg.
Previewing The Wofford Terriers:
Wofford comes into the matchup with Furman playing some good basketball as of late, despite the recent overtime loss on the road at Mercer. Mike Young-coached teams are always defensive-minded and pace-minded in the fact they want to dictate how you play on offense and how fast you play the game.
Wofford was in action on Tuesday night, having faced NAIA juggernaut Tennessee Wesleyan, who came into the game with the Terriers unbeaten, at 15-0, until the Terriers handed the visitors an 89-66 setback. The Terriers didn't have it easy as the score would indicate, leading by only four points (41-37) at the intermission.
The Paladins have been given a steady dose of zone defense since the loss at Navy earlier this season, but perhaps the good news is that Wofford doesn't like to play a zone, even though at times they do. They are at their best defensively playing good, tough man-to-man defense.
Offensively, the Terriers have new pieces contributing in their lineup this season, as well of some veteran championship leadership. That vetrean combination of experience resides in the Wofford backcourt, where Spencer Collins and Eric Garcia dictate a lot of what Wofford does on both ends of the floor.
Collins, a native of Easley, was a player that was recruited by the Furman staff, but he chose to become a Terrier.
Wofford's good play of late has coincided with the strong play of Spencer Collins, especially since the start of Southern Conference play. In fact, as of Thursday afternoon, Collins led the SoCon in scoring in conference play this season, as he is averaging 22.0 PPG, which is a point more than Furman's Stephen Croone 21.0 PPG this season.
Collins is coming off a career-best performance in the loss to Mercer in the Terriers' last conference game, posting 30 points, which included eight three-pointers. Collins finished the game against the Bears, connecting on 10-of-22 shots from the field and 8-for-15 from three-point range.In three of the past six games in league play, and comes off a 15-point effort on Monday night in an easy 89-66 win over Tennessee-Wesleyan in a mid-week game.
It's something head coach Mike Young likes to do during a week when the league schedule has a bit of a respite for some teams, with the some teams getting a week off.
Rest or no rest, no one has been able to slow the play of Collins, who simply sizzling the nets to the tune of a blistering 58.7% (26-of-47) from three-point range since the start of Southern Conference play, which easily leads the SoCon in conference games this season.
Collins has also been tough to stop in his career against the Paladins, including scoring 21, 14 and 10 in games against the Paladins last season. Collins has been among the top perimeter shooters in the Southern Conference all season, having knocked down 47-of-104 three-point field goal attempts this season, which ranks third in the SoCon in three-point field goal percentage, at 45.2%.
He also ranks fourth in the SoCon in three-pointers made-per-game, as he is connecting on 2.5 three-pointers made per game this season. In seven career-games against the Paladins, Collins is 6-1 and has scored in double figures in all seven meetings, including scoring 20 or more points three times. His career high against the Paladins is 21 points, which he totaled twice in his career, with the most recent of those games coming last season in a 74-49 win in Spartanburg.
Joining Collins as a veteran starter in the Terrier backcourt is Garcia, who came up with that clutch triple that helped the Terriers take control of the Southern Conference championship game between the two last season. Garcia, like Collins, shoots the three-ball well and is one of the more underrated point guards in the SoCon for what he does on both ends of the floor.
The native of Aurora, Colorado has started all 19 games this season for the Terriers, and started 30 of 35 games last season, with one of the few starts he missed last season being the game in Spartanburg against Furman. He missed three games as a result of injury last season. Collins and Garcia have been regulars in the starting lineup each of the past three years, with Collins slated to start his 119th time on Satutrday against the Paladins, while Garcia is slated to make his 75th start on Saturday against Furman.
Garcia has found himself in double figures in eight games this season, including each of the past three games. He has posted 16 and 21 in games against Tennessee Wesleyan and Mercer in each of the past two games.
In the loss to Mercer in overtime last Saturday, Garcia has been the third-best perimeter threat for the Terriers this season, entering the contest with 38 triples this season, as he is connecting on a blistering 46.3% (38-of-82) from three-point land this season. Garcia and Collins' performance from beyond the three-point arc this season has helped the Terriers rank second in the SoCon in three-point field goal percentage, connecting on 38.8% for the season thus far. In conference play, the Terriers are 60-of-134 from long range, which tops the league at a 44.8% clip, which is just ahead of ETSU.
In two games against the Paladins last season, Garcia posted six and 15 points. His 15 points came in the all-important Southern Conference Championship game win for the Terriers, as he was able to connect on 4-of-9 from the field, including 4-for-7 from three-point range. Garcia also ranks fourth in the SoCon in assists this season, dishing out 4.2 assists-per-game.
Rounding out the trio of talented guards in the backcourt has been one of the top newcomers in the Southern Conference this season, in freshman Fletcher Magee (11.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG), who ranks second among the league's rookies, at 11.1 PPG. The only freshman ranking higher in scoring this season is UNCG's Francis Alonso, who is averaging 12.6 PPG this season.
Magee ranks second on the Terrier roster in three-pointers made this season, having connected on 41 triples this season, ranking ninth in the league and second on the team in three-pointers made-per-game, knocking down 2.2 per contest. Magee is also shooting well from the perimeter this season, having connected on 41-of-105 from three-point range, which converts to a 39.0% clip from three-point range this season.
Magee ranks second on the team in scoring this season, with 11 of 19 games having placed in double figures, including a pair of 20-point games this season, with 22 points in a loss at Missouri to open the season, while posting a career-high 27 points in a road loss at Austin Peay. In that career-high performance against the Governors, Magee posted a career-standard seven triples. He has five triples in two other games against Chattanooga and Missouri. Interestingly, when Magee has hit five or more three-pointers in a game this season, the Terriers are 0-3. Magee also ranks second in the Southern Conference in free throw percentage this season, connecting on 90.5% (38-of-42) from the charity stripe this season.
The trio of Magee, Garcia and Collins has connected on a combined 126 of the team's 152 three-point field goals this season.
Some of the significant contributors in the backcourt off the bench will be Derrick Brooks (1.9 PPG, 1.2 RPG) and Jaylen Allen (4.8 PPG, 1.9 RPG). Allen, a native of Johnson City, Tenn, was a starter at the beginning of the season, but has seen his play decrease drastically. He has started nine of the 17 games this season, but has seen a combined 10 minutes in the past two games against Tennessee Wesleyan and Mercer. Trevor Stumpe, a 6-5 freshman guard from Plainfield, Ill, could also provide depth for the Terriers in spots on Saturday.
The Wofford frontcourt has had trouble replacing the production and reliability that Lee Skinner brought every night last season, however, the Terriers still have one of the most explosive athletes in the Southern Conference around, with the return of senior 6-6 forward Justin Gordon (10.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG), who is one of the premier athletes in the Southern Conference this season. The Charlotte, N.C., had a solid game against the Paladins in Greenville last season, posting eight points, five boards and three steals in Wofford's 62-60 win at Timmons Arena last season.
Gordon comes into the matchup having seen his scoring responsibilities go up this season without the presence of Skinner in the paint, and thus, has increased his scoring average by three points this season, going from a season-ending average of 7.5 PPG a year ago to averaging 10.5 PPG this season. Gordon comes in ranking seventh overall in the league in field goal percentage this season, having posted a solid 49.4 FG% clip this season.
Gordon scored in double figures in the first seven games of the season, including a season and career-high 19 points in the season-opening loss to Missouri. Gordon is an explosive athlete and maximizes his leaping ability to be a menace on the offensive glass. He is also one of the league's most explosive dunkers. Gordon had eight points, two boards and a block in the win over Tennessee-Wesleyan Tuesday night. He comes into Saturday's clash with the Paladins having posted 12 double-figure games this season.
Rounding out the starting five slated to start on Saturday against the Paladins for Wofford is 6-9 center C.J. Neumann (4.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG). The senior from St. Paul, Minn, was yet another key piece of that championship team of a year ago, and this season, though not as an offensive threat. It was Neumann's key offensive rebound that led to that monumental triple from Garcia in last season's championship game, which allowed the Terriers to go on to the 67-64 win and a second-straight Southern Conference title.
Neumann has started all 19 games for Wofford this season, and has a total of 51 starts out of a possible 54 games over the past two campaigns. Neumann's 6.5 RPG this season ranks him fifth in the Southern Conference in rebounding this season.
Off the bench for the Terriers, they will be reliant upon some new faces in the frontcourt, with the likes of 6-11 Matthew Pegram (2.5 PPG, 1.4 RPG) and 6-8 Ryan Sawvell (4.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG) seeing the most action off the bench in the frontcourt for Wofford. Both players are in their freshman seasons for the Terriers.
Quick Furman Player and Team Notes Heading Into Wofford Matchup
Protecting the Home Floor:
Furman holds a 7-1 record at Timmons Arena this season, including 3-0 in Southern Conference play inside the friendly confines this season. The Paladins have won all seven home games this season by double digits. In the seven home wins this season, the Paladins have posted an average margin of victory of about 29 PPG, however, two of those wins, which were the two largest of the season by the Paladins, were against Non-Division I foes. In league games this season, the closest margin of victory is 15 points, as the Paladins cruised to a 70-55 win over Chattanooga earlier this season, which accounts for the Mocs' lone league loss this season. Furman is winning league games at home on average by 21 PPG. Furman's lone home loss of the season came in a 70-50 setback to Gardner-Webb. The Paladins' seven wins out of eight home appearances marks the most wins at Timmons Arena since the Paladins went 11-2 on the home hardwood. The Paladins have four-straight at home, and in 2010-11, had a streak of six-straight home victories before Wofford ended that streak of wins on the home floor by the Paladins in their second championship season.
âWofford head coach Mike Young went just 2-7 in his first nine matchups against the Paladins since taking over prior to the 2002-03 season. Since losing those seven of his first nine to Furman, culminating with a 67-61 Paladin win in Greenville during the 2007-08 season, Young has certainly righted the ship, winning 13 of his last 15 games on the sidelines for the Terriers against the Paladins. In the first nine games, Furman reached or eclipsed the 70-point plateau five times in those first four matchups, going 4-1 when scoring 70 or more points. In the past 15 games, the Paladins have reached the 70-point mark three times, going 1-2 in those games. The Paladins posted the lone win when scoring 70 points in the 2010-11 season, as the Paladins posted a 73-68 win in Spartanburg. In each of those other two clashes when the Paladins have scored 70, they have obviously also allowed more than 70 points, with losses in the 2011-12 campaign (L, 79-72) and in the 2008-09 season (L, 85-82). Both of those games were in the friendly confines of Timmons Arena.
Stars on Display:
âIt's rare that you see two players with the scoring prowess that both Stephen Croone and Spencer Collins, but the game between the Paladins features the No. 11 and 13 scorers for their respective programs. Croone ranks 11th in school history in points scored, with 1,652-career points, while Collins is 13th in program history in scoring, having scored 1,517 points in 119-career games. That ranks Croone and Collins No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the SoCon in career-active points entering Saturday's clash.
âThree players from both rosters highlight the local talent from area high schools will be in the building today, with two of those players on Furman's roster, in Jalen Williams (Wade Hampton HS) and Andrew Brown (Travelers Rest HS), while Spencer Collins (Easley HS) will be watched by friends and family on the Wofford side. Collins will play a significant role for the Terriers, while Brown could see some action off the Furman bench Saturday. Williams will redshirt this season.
Furman Lineup Notes (Projected Starting Five):
G #14 Stephen Croone (16.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.6 APG )-Stephen Croone has picked up the play of late since entering Southern Conference play this season, as he has posted four 20-point games since the start of SoCon play with the turn of the calender. Croone now ranks in the top 11 in Furman's program history in scoring, as he has posted 1,651 points in his career, which ranks 11th in program history just ahead of former Paladin great Clyde Mayes (1973-75/1,589 pts) and Bryon Pinson (1957-60/1,598 pts), which rank 13th and 12th in school history, respectively. Croone needs 27 points to surpass 1998 Southern Conference Player of the Year Chuck Vincent (1995-98) for 10th in program history in scoring. Croone also ranks ninth in school history in assists (347) and ranks seventh in program history in steals (162). This season, Croone ranks 12th in the league this season in assists-per-game (2.6 APG) and ranks ninth in steals per game (1.4 SPG). The senior guard from Covington, GA suited up only twice against the Terriers last season, missing the regular-season finale with an abdominal strain. Croone posted 17 points in the 74-49 loss to the Terriers in Spartanburg, while posting 14 points in the loss in the 67-64 SoCon title game loss last season. In Southern Conference play this season, Croone has posted a pair of 27-point efforts in a win over Chattanooga and a loss to Mercer. Since the start of Southern Conference play, Croone has nine-straight double-figure scoring games and has a total of five 20-point scoring games this season, including each of the past two outings in road losses to Mercer (27 pts) and The Citadel. The senior guard has posted double-figure scoring games in 73 of his last 77 games, dating back to a 2013 game at Clemson. After posting just nine points against the the Tigers, Croone's response the next time out was emphatic, posting the highest point total for a Paladin player since 1977-78, posting 40 points in an 86-83 win over Liberty. Wofford is one of four teams to limit Croone to less than double figures during that time period, holding the senior guard to nine points in the only win for Furman in the past seven meetings with its Upstate rivals, as the Paladins posted a 69-65 win over Wofford during Croone's freshman season. Croone started the season with an injury to his thumb, forcing to him to wear a brace for much of non-conference play, which affected his perimeter shooting. Since removing that brace, he has been more proficient and confident as a perimeter threat, and has made 13 of his 22 trifectas since the start of SoCon play, including five triples in road losses at both Mercer and UNCG. All told, Croone is shooting just 26.2% (22-of-84) from three-point range this season. Since the start of Southern Conference play, Croone's 21.0 PPG ranks second to only Wofford's Spencer Collins. Croone is coming off a 22-point effort in last Saturday's loss to The Citadel.
G #1 John Davis III (5.6 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 1.7 APG)--Has played well since being inserted into the starting lineup for the Paladins this season, and has seemingly settled the team when he enters the lineup. Davis III is slated to make his ninth-straight start against Wofford Saturday since being inserted for the first time prior to the Navy game. Davis III also made a pair of starts at the beginning of the season to enable Stephen Croone to full get back to health. Davis III has one double-figure scoring game this season, posting 10 points against gainst Bluefield earlier this season. Interestingly enough, Davis III posted the best performance of his career last season against Wofford, posting 20 points in a narrow, 62-60 loss to the Terriers. Like the start of the season, when the Paladins played without starting senior guard and leading scorer Stephen Croone for the first two games of the season, Davis III took on more of a scoring responsibility playing without Croone, who was suffering from an abdominal strain . He is shooting a solid 36% (17-of-43) from three-point range so far in 2015-16. Davis played especially well in a recent win over Chattanooga, finished with eight points, four boards and a steal against the Mocs. He has taken excellent care of the basketball this season, having posted just turnovers. In the 62-60 loss to Wofford last season, Davis would connect on 7-of-11 shots from the field for the game, and was 4-for-6 from three-point range in the narrow loss.
G #35 Daniel Fowler (6.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG)--Daniel Fowler is one of Furman’s top defensive players and distributors, and this season, the 6-4 sophomore guard from Acworth, GA, has also proven to be the best perimeter shooter on the Furman roster, having connected on 42.3% (22-of-52) from three-point range this season. That percentage from long range ranks sixth in the Southern Conference through the first 19 games of the 2015-16 season. Fowler has scored in double figures in three games this season, including a season-high 12 points against Samford in a 77-57 Furman win. In his first three games against Wofford in his career last season, Fowler scored 11, two and five points against the Terriers last season. Fowler also recorded his first-career double-double earlier this season against Mount St. Mary’s, registering 10 points and a career-high 10 boards. Fowler and Larry Wideman will likely draw the unenviable task of trying to slow Wofford’s Spencer Collins.
F #21 Kris Acox (7.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG)--There’s no question that the Paladins missed Kris Acox’s presence in the paint is key for Furman, and as he goes, seemingly so do the Paladins. In the six games that Acox has scored in double figures this season, the Paladins are 6-0. However, Acox has struggled as of late, and has a total of just two points in the past two games. Acox scored 15 points in Furman’s SoCon opener against VMI, as the Paladins were dominant on the home floor against the Keydets. In games in which Acox has not scored in double figures, the Paladins are just 3-10. Furman definitely missed Acox in the championship game of the SoCon last season in Asheville, and after his departure just a little over four minutes into the game due to a foot fracture, as the Paladins struggled to control the boards against the Terriers. In two games against the Terriers last season, Acox struggled offensively, scoring just three and two points, respectively, in those games. Acox was pretty effective on the boards in both regular-season meetings last season, registering seven and five boards in those two meetings last season. Acox enters the matchup with the Terriers sporting a league-leading 58.6% from the field this season, connecting on 58-of-99 shots from the field so far this season. Acox’s 5.3 RPG this season ranks him 13th overall in the SoCon.
C #32 Matt Rafferty (8.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG)--Impressive 6-8 forward/center Matt Rafferty comes into the matchup off what was his fifth double-double of the season, as he was able to post 14 points and 10 boards in the last outing against The Citadel. Raffety’s freshman season has seen him be a big reason why the Paladins rank second in the SoCon in rebound margin (+5.2), as he has recorded six double-digit rebound performances in his first season as a Paladin. His 7.1 RPG this season ranks him third in the Southern Conference in rebounding this season. The freshman from Hinsdale, Ill, comes in with eight double-figure scoring games this season, with his best performance of the season coming in Furman’s lone road win of the season at Appalachian State, where he recorded 19 points and seven boards in the 79-70 road win for the Paladins. From the field this season, Rafferty is connecting 48.7% (55-of-113) from the field this season, and shooting 32.3% (10-of-31) from beyond the arc this season. Raffery is an excellent passer out of the post, as he ranks third on the team with 39 assists this season.
Significant Contributors Off The Furman Bench:
#12 Devin Sibley (9.6 PPG, 2.7 RPG)--Last year’s Southern Conference Freshman of the Year has had some strong performances as of late, as Knoxville, Tenn native Devin Sibley enters the matchup having posted double-figure scoring games in the each of the past four games, including 16 points the last time out. Since entering Southern Conference play, Sibley has been Furman’s x-factor off the bench and is averaging 20.5 PPG in six conference games this season. Sibley has been an effective perimeter shooter throughout his Furman career, and has connected on 32.4% (21-of-64) from beyond the arc this season, which is a little below his team-leading average 37.1% he posted from beyond the arc last season. Sibley also has 26 assists and 10 steals this season. In three games against the Terriers last season, Sibley posted eight, 15, and five in the three meetings with the Terriers last season. His 15-point effort came in the 62-60 loss to the Terriers in Greenville last season, combining with John Davis III to post 35 of the Paladins’ 60 points in that particular outing last season. Sibley has 10 double-figure scoring games this season, and in his 15-point effort against the Terriers at Timmons Arena last season, Sibley went 6-of-11 from the field and was 3-for-6 from three-point range.
#30 Kendrec Ferrara (5.6 PPG, 3.5 RPG)--Kendrec Ferrara has certainly picked up his play on the defensive end of the floor as of late, and 14 of his 20 blocks this season have come in the past four games. Like Croone, Ferrara hasn’t had much success against the Terriers in his career, as he is just 1-6 in seven all-time meetings with Wofford. In last season’s three meetings, Ferrara played solid in all three games last season against Wofford, posting six, 14 and 10 points, respectively, in those three games. Ferrara’s 14-point effort against the Terriers came in the 62-60 loss to the Terriers in Greenville came on 6-of-9 shooting from the field, including 1-for-2 from three-point land. He also posted four blocks in that regular-season finale against Wofford last season. Ferrara has five double-figure scoring games this season, with his last time he scored in double digits coming in the 77-57 win over Samford, which saw him finish with 11 points in that particular contest. Ferrara has hit 7-of-21 shots from three-point land this season (33.3%) and is just 13-for-28 from the free throw line this season, which averages out to just a 46.4% clip from the charity stripe. From the field this season, Ferrara is a an impressive 56.6% (43-of-76).
F #03 Geoff Beans (5.4 PPG, 1.8 RPG)--Geoff Beans appears to be finding his shooting touch,and that could be would Furman needs to take that next ultimate step. Beans has connected on 25-of-79 (31.6%) from three this season, but the past four games have seen Beans finish 10-for-22 from long-range, including a season-high 16 points in the win over Samford. Beans had quite the performance against Wofford in last season’s SoCon Tournament title game, connecting on five threes for the Paladins in the 67-64 championship loss.
G #24 Larry Wideman (2.8 PPG, 2.4 RPG)--Maybe the most key player off the bench is Larry Wideman, who was recently called by head coach Niko Medved as Furman’s best on-the-ball defender. He’ll likely see plenty of time guarding Wofford’s talented wing Spencer Collins, who coach Niko Medved said is playing the best basketball in the SoCon at this current juncture of the season.
Who Wins: Furman 72, Wofford 70