After being ranked in the Associated Press poll just a week ago, Furman dropped its second game in convincing fashion, with a 79-56 setback to East Tennessee State in front of a rowdy crowd at Freedom Hall.
With the win, the Bucs improve to 11-4 overall and 1-1 in Southern Conference play, while Furman fell to 12-2 overall and 1-1 in league play. The Bucs have now won 10 of their last 12. We can pretty much determine the Southern Conference race will be a war.
The Bucs shot a blistering 60 percent (30-of-50) from the field in the contest, while the nation’s top rebounding team did work on the glass, out-rebounding the Paladins 33-23 in the contest while also out-scoring Furman in the paint, 42-30. In the final 20 minutes of the game, ETSU shot 66.7% (16-of-24) from the field, exerting its inside dominance much of the way.
Furman shot below 40 percent for the second time in as many games, connecting on just 20-of-54 from the field, which equated to just a 37.0 percent. Furman is just 14-of-53 from three the past two games. In the past two meetings with ETSU, Furman has been held to 18.5 percent (9-of-48) shooting from three-point range and 37.5 percent (39-of-104) from the field.
In the two losses to LSU and ETSU, Furman has been out-scored in the paint, 92-52, and has been been out-rebounded 73-45 by both the Bucs and Tigers.
Meanwhile, redshirt sophomore forward Clay Mounce has struggled in his past two outings by being limited to a combined four points. It is important to note that the problems Furman has had over the past couple of games have been collective, and can’t be laid at the feet of one player.
ETSU had four players finish in double figures in the win, led by another outstanding performance from Jeromy Rodriguez, who led all ETSU players in double figures with 19 points, 11 rebounds along with two assists and a block.
The double-double for Rodriguez was his SoCon-leading seventh of the season. He entered the game tied for the conference lead with Rafferty, with both tied with six.
Eligible for just a little over a week this season, Lucas N’Guessan saw his first meaningful action and he didn’t disappoint, posting 13 points, five rebounds and blocking three shots.
Freshman point guard Davien Williamson and sophomore Appalachian State transfer Patrick Good combined to connect on all seven of ETSU’s three-pointers, finishing with 13 and 12 points, respectively. Good went 4-for-8 from downtown, while Williamson finished 3-for-4 from downtown.
Another key for the Bucs was superb perimeter defense, as the Bucs held Furman to just 22.7 percent (5-for-22) from three-point land. Matt Rafferty led Furman with 19 points, five boards and five assists, while Jordan Lyons and Noah Gurley contributed 12 and 10 points, respectively, to round out the double-figure scorers in the game.
The Paladins would trail by as many as 24 points (71-47) late in the second half, which was the largest deficit of the season in the loss. Furman’s loss to the Bucs marks its worst to another Southern Conference opponent since Feb. 22, 2015, when the Paladins were soundly beaten, 84-49, at UNC Greensboro.
In addition to its dominance in the paint and on the boards, the Bucs also held significant advantages in fast break points (13-0) and assists (18-9).
Both Furman and ETSU return to Southern Conference action Thursday night, with ETSU hosting 11-win Samford at Freedom Hall, with tip-off set for 7 p.m. Furman hosts Mercer Thursday night at Timmons Arena, with tip-off set for 7 p.m.