Furman heads back to Greenville looking to defend a 14-game home SoCon winning streak against against Chattanooga. This looms as one of the biggest of the season in Southern Conference play. After all, the Mocs were selected to win the league, while the Paladins were picked third.
The teams met back on Jan. 7 in Chattanooga, where the Mocs were able to hand the Paladins their only double-digit loss of the season. The Paladins followed with a loss at Wofford the following week, however, since those back-to-back losses, they’ve reeled off six-straight wins.
The six-straight SoCon wins are the most since the 1979-80 season, and the first time the Paladins have won six-straight games since the 2000-01 season.
Chattanooga has also been playing good basketball as of late, coming in winners of two-straight. The Mocs’ consecutive wins in league play came on the heels of Chattanooga’s first back-to-back SoCon losses since the 2013-14 season.
With ETSU’s loss at Wofford on Monday night, the Mocs are just a half-game back of second place in the league standings, and with a win Thursday night over the Paladins, Chattanooga would take over first place.
In the initial meeting with Furman, Chattanooga saw Jonathan Burroughs-Cook, Justin Tuoyo and Greg Pryor combine for 47 of the team’s 80 points in the impressive 16-point win over the Paladins. The trio would help break open what had been a close game in the late going.
The story of the game was the sharp-shooting by the Mocs, as they connected on 53.5 percent of their shots. The Mocs also held a 17-0 edge in bench points and connected on 9-of-20 from three-point range, while holding the Paladins to just 6-of-15 from long-range. Furman actually held a 45-44 lead with 13:30 remaining. However, Chattanooga scored the next 11 points to take control of the game.
Entering Thursday night’s contest, the Mocs have four players averaging in double figures, led by Tre’ McLean, who is averaging 14.2 PPG. McLean is also second on the team in rebounds, averaging 5.3 per game, and leads the team with 43 steals. He also leads the team in three-point field goal percentage, connecting on 39-of-99 triples this season (39.4%).
McLean is joined in double figures by Tuoyo, who is averaging 13.6 PPG and a team-high 6.9 rebounds-per-game. Tuoyo comes in as the league’s leading shot-blocker, having posted 72 blocks so far this season. Tuoyo also leads the SoCon in field goal percentage, having connected on 64.6 percent from the field. Tuoyo will be a candidate for SoCon POY honors this season.
Pryor enters the contest averaging 12.2 PPG and averages 2.3 RPG and 2.7 APG. Pryor has a total of 63 assists on the season, which ranks 14th in the SoCon. He is one of the more underrated point guards in the league, and gave the Paladins fits in the first meeting. Casey Jones, who was the preseason SoCon POY heading into the 2015-16 prior to getting injured comes in averaging in double figures, posting 10.0 PPG and 3.6 RPG. Jones is a tough match up at guard, as he is 6’6 and physical.
Furman comes in red-hot, and a lot of that has to do with the play of its three veterans--Devin Sibley (17.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG)(17.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG), Kris Acox (12.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG) and Daniel Fowler (11.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.3 APG).
Sibley comes in ranking third in the SoCon overall in scoring and was the SoCon’s Player of the Month in January. In the first match up with the Mocs this season, Sibley posted 25 points to lead all scorers.
Sibley is coming off a career-high 32-point performance in the Paladins’ 99-91 win at The Citadel this past Saturday. He’sialso one of the better three-point shooters percentage-wise in the league, as he’s shooting 46 percent from deep.
Acox has been playing strong as of late as well, having posted double figures in his last nine games. Acox also has registered seven double-doubles this season.
This one should be worth tuning in.
Furman has not been to the NCAA Tournament in 37 years. A win Thursday night would go a long way in likely securing a top four seeding for the upcoming SoCon Tournament in Asheville next month.
A win by the Mocs would make a season sweep of the Paladins and give them an inside track on garnering a SoCon regular-season title and a No.1 overall seed in Asheville for a second-straight season.