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Southern Conference Saturday: Furman survives a scare from Mercer

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The Paladins closed on a 24-12 run.

Furman downed Mercer in a battle of SoCon heavyweights Saturday afternoon at Timmons Arena
John Hooper

Furman closed the game on a 24-12 run, with Daniel Fowler scoring 11 of his team-high 21 points during the stretch, to earn a 74-71 win over Mercer on Saturday.

With the win, Furman improved to 12-4 overall and 3-0 in Southern Conference play, while Mercer dropped to 7-8 overall and 0-2 in league play.

Fowler’s 21 points are his season-high, and he earned it on 6-11 shooting from the field, including 3-7 from beyond the arc. He also provided four assists, four rebounds and two crucial steals to help lead the Paladins to the win.

Trailing 59-50 with 8:43 remaining, the Paladins embarked on an 11-0 run to take control of the game, starting with a Matt Rafferty layup to cut the Mercer lead to seven. Following a Stephon Jelks turnover the next time down the floor, Rafferty was fouled and calmly went to the stripe to hit two foul shots and cut the Bears’ lead to 59-54 with just under eight minutes remaining.

Furman senior point guard John Davis III recorded one of Furman’s 10 steals on Mercer’s ensuing possession, which led to a Devin Sibley layup.

Demetre Rivers missed a layup for the Bears on the next possession, and Fowler hit a three shortly thereafter to tie the game with 6:18 remaining. He hit a pair of free throws less than a minute later to put the Paladins ahead.

Fowler was one of five Paladins in double figures, joined by Lyons and Rafferty, who added 12 points apiece, while Sibley and Davis contributed 11 and 10 points, respectively. Lyons connected on 3-7 shots from the field, including going 2-6 from three-point land.

In addition to Rafferty’s 12 points, he added seven boards, two assists and three steals.

Mercer’s Desmond Ringer led all scorers with 22 points, connecting on 7-8 shots from the field. He also was one of three Bears to record seven rebounds in the contest.

Ringer was joined in double figures by Cohen (a career-high 14 pts), Rivers (12 pts) and Ria’n Holland (11 pts).

Despite Mercer entering the game with the nation’s best three-point shooter (Holland, 58 percent), the Paladins held the Bears to just 3-17 shooting from three and Holland went 0-6.

The Paladins made eight threes of their own.

The Bears held advantages in points in the paint (40-26) and fast break points (12-4), while Furman edged the Bears in points off turnovers (14-6) and second chance points (11-10). Both teams had 17 bench points. Mercer had a substantial advantage on the backboards, out-rebounding the Paladins 37-24.

Furman recorded 15 assists and turned the ball over just eight times in the contest, while Mercer recorded just 10 assists and amassed 16 turnovers.

Furman looks to improve to 4-0 in Southern Conference play for the first time since the 1986-87 season when it travels to Chattanooga Wednesday night for a 7 p.m. contest at McKenzie Arena. Mercer will look to bounce back from consecutive losses to open conference play when it travels to Cullowhee to face Western Carolina in another 7 p.m. tip time.

SoCon Power Rankings:

1. UNCG 11-4, 2-0 SoCon
2. Furman 12-4, 3-0 SoCon
3. ETSU 12-4, 3-0 SoCon
4. Wofford 10-5, 2-1 SoCon
5. Mercer 7-8, 0-2 SoCon
6. Samford 6-10, 2-1 SoCon
7. Western Carolina 6-9, 2-1 SoCon
8. Chattanooga 6-10, 0-3 SoCon
9. VMI 5-9, 0-3 SoCon
10. The Citadel 5-10, 0-3 SoCon

Players of the Day:

Daniel Fowler (Furman)--21 points in win over Mercer
Desmond Ringer (Mercer)--tied career-high with 22 points in loss to Furman
Francis Alonso (UNCG)--19 points in road win over VMI
Bubba Parham (VMI)--19 points in loss to UNCG
Peter Jurkin (ETSU)--Recorded first-career double-double with 15 points and 11 rebs in win.
Nat Dixon (Chattanooga)--20 points in loss to ETSU
Nathan Hoover (Wofford)--21 points in win over The Citadel
Cameron Jackson (Wofford)--13 points, career-high 13 rebounds in win over The Citadel Demetrius Denzel-Dyson (Samford) 21 points in win over Western Carolina
Matt Halvorsen (Western Carolina) 21 points in loss at Samford

Scores For Jan. 6:

Furman 74, Mercer 71 (Timmons Arena/Greenville, S.C.)
Wofford 109, The Citadel 92 (Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium/Spartanburg, S.C.)
East Tennessee State 85, Chattanooga 66 (McKenzie Arena/Chattanooga, Tenn)
UNC Greensboro 63, VMI 61 (Cameron Hall/Lexington, VA)
Samford 85, Western Carolina 71 (Pete Hanna Center/Birmingham, AL)