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Southern Conference weekly recap and power rankings

Furman and ETSU faced off in the marquee matchup of the evening, however, two other games produced more drama

Furman wins third-straight over ETSU at Timmons Arena
John Hooper

It was another solid slate of games in the Southern Conference on Thursday evening, with eight of the league’s 10 teams in action. The marquee matchup took place in Greenville between Furman and East Tennessee State.

Furman 75, ETSU 62

Furman claimed its 12th-straight Southern Conference home win, capturing a 75-62 victory over East Tennessee State at Timmons Arena.

The Paladins recorded 13 steals and posted 24 points off of 20 ETSU turnovers, placing three players in double figures. With the win, Furman is now 11-8 overall and 4-2 in SoCon play, while the Bucs dropped to 14-5 overall and 4-2 in league play.

Furman got a big performance from senior post Kris Acox, who registered 19 points and eight rebounds. The native of Reykjavik, Iceland was a near-flawless 9-10 from the field and was 1-4 from the charity stripe. Acox was joined in double figures by John Davis III (14 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) and Devin Sibley (13 points,3 rebounds, 3 assists), while junior guard Daniel Fowler led the club with six assists and had three triples.

ETSU got out to a quick start in the opening 10 minutes and grabbed a 13-10 lead with just under 11 minutes remaining in the opening half of play. From there, however, Furman stepped up its play on the defensive end, leading to what would become a 17-3 Paladin run and a 27-16 lead with 4:10 remaining in the opening frame.

The Paladins maintained that double-digit advantage into halftime, with ETSU’s 22 first-half points a season worst.

The Paladins saw their lead grow to as many as 27 midway through the second half. ETSU slowly chipped away at the lead, which included a 19-3 run down the stretch, but could get no closer than nine.

ETSU was led by TJ Cromer, who scored a game-high 20 points to lead a pair of Bucs in double figures. AJ Merriweather finished with 12 points, and Desonta Bradford grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds to round out the superlatives for ETSU.

Furman returns to action Saturday afternoon, hosting VMI in a 4 p.m. league contest at Timmons Arena, while ETSU returns to Johnson City where it will await Wofford’s arrival Sunday afternoon at Freedom Hall. Tip-off for that one is set for 2 p.m.

Star of the Game:

Furman’s Kris Acox scored 19 points, grabbed eight rebounds and registered two steals in one of the best performances of his career. Acox connected on 9-of-10 shots from the field.

Stat of the Game:

In a classic matchup of the SoCon’s top defensive team (Furman leads the SoCon in FG% defense) against the top offensive club (ETSU leads the SoCon in FG% shooting), it was the Furman defensive effort which won the night, holding the Bucs to a season-low for points in a half and their second-lowest field goal percentages for a game this season (37.9%).

What We Learned:

Despite being arguably the most talented team in the league from top-to-bottom, the Bucs can be tamed if taken out of the rhythm of their offense, and that’s exactly what Furman was able to do Thursday night in getting its 12th-straight Southern Conference home win. The Paladins got ETSU into a halfcourt game, and that helped keep the Bucs to 19 points under their 81.4 PPG average coming into the game.

Odds and Ends:

While the marquee matchup in the SoCon did not produce the kind of drama some might have expected, at least two other matchups around the SoCon did.

Mercer did all it could to knock UNC Greensboro back, however, the Spartans posted their second-straight win over the Bears, closing the game on a 15-5 run to win 68-66.

The win ran UNCG’s winning streak to five, and the Spartans sit atop the SoCon standings with a 6-1 league mark. Mercer dropped to 2-5 in the SoCon. UNCG’s Francisco Alonso led all scorers with 26 points, while Mercer’s Jordan Strawberry chipped in 20 points. The 15th overall win by UNCG matches its win total from a year ago.

In the other thriller in SoCon play Thursday night, Western Carolina picked up its first Southern Conference victory of the season, downing the high-octane Citadel Bulldogs, 100-95.

The Catamounts boasted four players with career highs, including a game-high-matching 28 points from Elijah Pughsley. As a team, the Catamounts connected on a season-best 57.9% from the field. The Citadel’s talented freshman guard Preston Parks also finished with 28 points in the loss.

In the final game of the night, Wofford notched its second-straight win by knocking off VMI, 88-70, in Spartanburg.

Cameron Jackson established a career-high, posting 25 points and seven boards to lead three Terriers in double digits.

Power Rankings:

  1. UNCG (15-5, 6-1 SoCon)
  2. Chattanooga (14-4, 5-1 SoCon)
  3. Furman (11-8, 4-2 SoCon)
  4. ETSU (14-5, 4-2 SoCon)
  5. Wofford (8-11, 3-3 SoCon)
  6. Samford (13-6, 4-2 SoCon)
  7. Mercer (8-12, 2-5 SoCon)
  8. The Citadel (9-12, 2-6 SoCon)
  9. VMI (4-13, 1-5 SoCon)
  10. Western Carolina (6-13,1-5 SoCon)