LEXINGTON, VA--Devin Sibley scored a season-high with 19 points, while senior Larry Wideman posted his first double-figure scoring performance of the season by adding 15 points, as Furman won its first regular season SoCon game on the road in over a year, with 68-56 win over VMI in league action Monday night at Cameron Hall.
Sibley, a sophomore from Knoxville, Tenn, started for the first time in nine games, in relief of Daniel Fowler, who missed just the second start of his career with a separated shoulder, finished the contest connecting on 8-of-16 shots from the field and 2-for-6 from three-point land to equal his 19 points. The 19 points eclipsed his previous season highs of 18 established in wins over Appalachian State and Chattanooga earlier this season. It was Sibley's sixth-straight game in double digits.
The win the by Furman improves to 11-10 overall and 5-3 in the SoCon, while VMI fell to 6-12 overall and 1-6 in the SoCon. The win saw Furman take a half-game lead in the Southern Conference standings over Mercer and Wofford, who did not play Monday night.
Furman last won a Southern Conference game on the road on Jan. 17, 2015, knocking off The Citadel, 74-62, in Charleston last season. It marks just the second road win of the season for Furman, and snaps an eight-game skid on the road against conference foes.
The Paladins have now swept a foe in the regular season for the first time since getting a pair of wins over The Citadel in the 2011-12 season, and have now equaled both their overall (11) and conference (5) from a year ago.
VMI would come out of the locker room and take control early, cutting Furman's lead to with an 8-2 run coming out of the locker room to cut Furman's lead to 36-28, however, responded with a 13-0 run of its own to take its largest lead of the night, at 49-28. During the run, the Paladins got back-to-back triples from Wideman and a jumper by Sibley.
VMI finally stopped the bleeding with a pair of threes by Fred Iruafemi and Jordan Weethee and a pair of steals, with a slam and layup by QJ Peterson to account for two of the three-straight steals, to make it a 49-40 game, completing a 12-0 run by the Keydets.
Stephen Croone would be fouled on a shot the next time down the floor, and he hit both free throws to get it back to 51-40, however, another steal and layups by Trey Chapman and Phillip Anglade got the Keydets within seven, but Kris Acox was fouled on a layup and was able to to convert the three-point play the old-fashioned way to make it a 54-44 game.
After the Keydets cut it to nine again, Sibley would connect on a triple with the shot clock winding down, to get Furman back out to a 13-point lead, at 57-46, with 6:36 remaining. A pair of Peterson free throws on the ensuing possession got the Keydets back to within nine points at 57-48, but Croone went to the line and knocked down a pair to put the Paladins back up by 11, 59-48, with 5:35 remaining.
VMI would get the lead inside double digits just once more, at 59-50, but the Paladins were able to hold it consistently at 11-13 the rest of the way to hold on for the win.
In the opening half of play, Furman got some early production out of Sibley, who would score nine of his a team-high 18 points in the opening half of play, to continue his strong play as of late.
The opening half of play would be an indication that it would be another tight Southern Conference battle on the road for the Paladins.
After Croone was able to give Furman a 14-10 lead in the opening half of play following a made three-pointer, VMI would offer an emphatic response to re-take the lead, 18-17, a couple of minutes later on a three-point play the old-fashioned way by Tim Marshall.
The Paladins would then embark on a 7-0 run to take its largest lead of the night at 24-18, following a layup from from Larry Wideman on a beautifully designed give-and-go off the left elbow, as freshman forward Matt Rafferty hit the Loris, S.C. native in-stride going to the bucket for an easy two. During the mini run for the Paladins, Geoff Beans connected on one of the four first-half triples for Furman, and Rafferty used a nice up-and-under move to get a layup.
Following a timeout, Peterson's fall-away jumper would go to cut Furman's lead back to four, but Furman extended back to seven on three foul shots by Croone and two by Acox to make it a 27-20 game with 3:34 remaining in the half.
Furman would increase it's largest lead of the half to 29-20 on a jumper by Sibley, and following a VMI turnover, the Paladins would make it a double-digit lead following a layup by Acox and another Croone free throw, as the Paladins led 32-20 with 1:48 remaining in the half. Sibley would score another layup, completing Furman's 17-2 run over the final seven minutes of the opening half, as the Paladins took a 34-20 lead into the halftime locker room.
Sibley would be joined in double figures by Croone, who posted 18 points, accounting for his 11th-straight game in double digits, doing most of his damage from the charity stripe in the contest, as he knocked down 10-of-14 charity shots and including Saturday's 6-for-6 performance against Wofford, has now hit 16 of his last 20 from the line.
With that 18-point performance tonight, Croone moved into the top 10 on Furman's all-time scoring list, surpassing Chuck Vincent (1,677 pts/1995-98) on the program's all-time scoring list. The senior guard from Covington, GA, now has 1,686 career points for the Paladins. With five points against Western Carolina, Croone will move into ninth place in school history on the the all-time scoring ledger, surpassing George Singleton (1,690 points/1981-84)
QJ Peterson led VMI with 16 points, while Eleby added 12 points, accounting for the only double figure scorers for the Keydets.
In four of Furman's five Southern Conference wins this season, the opponent has scored less than 60 points and the Paladins held their fifth of league opponents in league play to 42% or less in field goal percentage shooting, as the Keydets connected on just 39.2% (20-of-51) from the field, while finishing the game just 26.1% (6-of-23) from beyond the arc.
Meanwhile, Furman shot the ball at a blistering 52.4% (22-of-42) from the field, and shot 53.3% (8-of-15). Furman held big advantages in bench points (18-5) and points off turnovers (21-14). It was another solid effort for Acox, who posted nine points and six boards.
Furman returns to the Southern Conference hardwood on Thursday night, looking to extend a five-game home court winning streak, hosting Western Carolina, with tip time set for 7 p.m. VMI will face Mercer in Macon Thursday night, with tip-off set for 7 p.m.