Furman Holds Off Pesky Western Carolina at Timmons Arena
GREENVILLE, S.C.--For the second time in as many games at Timmons Arena, Furman had to hold on at the end against a feisty Southern Conference opponent, as the Paladins were able to shake off Western Carolina for a 62-60 win in Thursday night Southern Conference basketball action.
With the win, Furman claimed its third-straight victory to improve to 12-10 overall and 6-3 in the Southern Conference, while Western Carolina fell to 8-13 and 3-5 in league play.
Western Carolina guard Mike Brown had a big night, scoring a game-high 27 points, however, his final shot wouldn't fall, as he finished 9-of-18 from the field and 2-of-6 from the charity stripe, while going 7-of-11 from the charity stripe.
Last season at Timmons Arena, Brown recorded a monster game against the Paladins, registering 13 points and a career-high 16 boards against the Paladins in a late February matchup last season. The 27 points against the Paladins were the most points scored against the Paladins this season, and just the fifth time 22 games that a player has eclipsed the 20-point plateau against Furman this season, with UNC Asheville's Kevin Vannatta and Dylan Smith posting 21 and 20 points for UNC Asheville in a Paladin loss on the road earlier this season. Frank Eaves of Appalachian State also posted 20 points in a Furman 79-70 road win in the second game of the season.
Furman was led in the contest by Geoff Beans, who matched a season-high 16 points and led the Paladins in scoring for the second time this season, as the sophomore from Toledo, OH, also led the Paladins with 16 points in a SoCon win over Samford earlier this season. In the six-straight wins at Timmons Arena, no opponent has scored more than 62 points against Furman's stingy defense, and the Paladins have won the past two home games by a combined three points.
Beans finished his strong night by connecting on 3-of-4 from the field, with all three of his shots from the field coming from beyond the arc. He was also strong from the charity stripe, where he knocked down 7-of-8 from the charity stripe. Though he did not score in the contest, Matt Rafferty came up with a team-high nine boards and recorded four steals in the win.
After Stephen Croone went 1-of-2 at the charity stripe, the Paladins were clinging to a 62-60 lead with 11.5 seconds remaining. Brown, who had been effective driving to the basket all night, would see Rafferty shift over and get a piece of the ball on his layup attempt, and the loose ball was grabbed by Browning, but he did not have enough time to get a up a final game-tying shot before the buzzer sounded and the Paladins were able to escape with the win.
Furman was able to rush out to a strong start in the game, leading 33-22 at the half. With the game tied 15-15 in the opening half of play following a layup by Brown with 10:09 left. From that point, the Paladins would close the half strong, finishing the final half of the opening frame going on an 18-7 run to take a 33-22 lead to the break.
Jonathan Jean, who saw his most meaningful action of the season and tied for his most longest duration of action on the hardwood (15 min) this season, helped fuel the strong run to close the frame.
Jean's quickness caused problems for the Catamounts, and he would use layups to take Furman's lead to five (23-18) and then seven points (29-22) to bring another solid crowd on hand at Timmons Arena to its collective feet. Just before the stretch, which included his two layups, Jean's quickness was even enough to frustrate Western Carolina's Elijah Pughsley into a technical foul, and Beans stepped to the line and connected on a pair of foul shots to make it a 25-20 game.
A layup by Sibley and a pair of free throws by Beans saw the Paladins close the opening half by scoring 10 of the final 12 points over the final 4:30 of the opening frame.
The second half would see a stark shift in momentum, as the Paladins couldn't parlay a strong end to the opening half into a strong start to the second half. Furman scored just six points in the first 9:45 of the second half, as Western Carolina would use back-to-back three-pointers by Pughsley and Rhett Harrelson to take a 39-37 lead with 14:00 remaining in the contest.
Over the remainder of the game would teeter back-and-forth, with the Catamounts running their lead out to as much as a Brown foul shot gave Western its biggest lead of the night, at 44-39, after a Mike Brown free throw with 10:45 remaining. Brown's free throw meant that Western had outscored Furman 22-6 in the opening 9:15 of the second half.
From that point, however, Furman would score the next six points on a pair of layups by Kris Acox and a pair of free throws by Stephen Croone, who finished with 12 points--10 of them at the line--and moved into 9th place in program history in scoring (1,698 pts), surpassing George Singleton (1,690 pts) in scoring, as the Paladins assumed a 46-44 lead with 7:54 remaining. The Paladins would not relinquish that lead the remainder of the game, although they were threatened the entire way down the stretch.
Brown tied the game, 46-46, moments later on two free throws, however, Beans answered with three free throws after being fouled on a three by Brown on the other end, helping the Paladins take a 49-46 lead. A jumper by Brown cut Furman's lead to one, however, Beans maybe his biggest shot of the game on the ensuing possession, knocking down a three from the left elbow with 5:56 remaining to give the Paladins a 52-48 lead, helping the Paladins create a little separation.
Furman would extend its lead to as much as six with 3:19 remaining, after Croone converted 1-of-2 at the line to make a 54-48 game, however, the Catamounts would not go away, cutting it to a one-possession game four times with in the final three minutes, but could never overtake the Paladins.
Joining Beans in double digits for Furman were Devin Sibley (13 pts), Croone (12 pts) and Acox (12 pts). For Sibley, it was his seventh-straight game in double figures, while Croone notched his 12th-straight contest in double digits. The Paladins moved to 8-0 when Kris Acox scores in double figures.
Joining Brown in double digits for the Catamounts was Justin Browning, who finished the contest with 11 points, eight boards and five steals.
Furman's Daniel Fowler did not play due to a partially separated shoulder suffered in last Saturday's win over Wofford, while John Davis III left the game late with an apparent dislocated finger. Both remain questionable for Saturday's home game with East Tennessee State, although Fowler is expected to return, while nothing definitive will be known on Davis until tomorrow.
For the game, the Paladins connected on 47.4% (18-of-38) from the field, including going 8-of-16 in the second half, but turned the ball over 18 times and were out-rebounded, 36-30, and connected on just 4-of-18 shots from beyond the arc (22.2%).
However, the Paladins certainly benefited from 13 missed Catamount free throws, was Western went just 10-for-23 at the line (43.5%), while Furman went 22-of-31 (71%) and the Paladins owned a huge 22-2 advantage in bench scoring. Western finished the night hitting 40.7% (22-of-54) from the field, but were just 6-of-24 (25%) from three-point land./
Both teams return to action on Saturday, with Furman welcoming East Tennessee State to Timmons Arena for a 4 p.m. contest, while Western Carolina is on the road to face Wofford in a 7 p.m. contest at the Benjamin Johnson Arena.
--Furman's 12 wins are the most since the 2011-12 season
--Furman's six conference wins are the most since winning eight league games in 2011-12.
--With Wofford's 87-73 win over ETSU, Furman now owns sole possession of third place in the SoCon Standings and will play ETSU with a chance to garner Second Place on the league's ledger with a win over the Bucs.