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Furman outlasts Appalachian State 79-70

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Freshman forward Matt Rafferty posted 19 points and seven rebounds to lead four players in double figures, as Furman picked a 79-70 win over Appalachian State Tuesday night at the Holmes Convocation Center.

Furman improved to 2-0, while Appalachian dropped to 1-1 on the young campaign.

Rafferty went an impressive 9-for-10 from the line and finished going 5-of-8 from the field, which equaled his team-leading 19 points, marking the second time in as many games in his career in which he has led the Paladins in scoring.

Sophomore guard Devin Sibley registered his first breakout game of the season for the Paladins, posting 18 points on 4-of-5 from three-point range, 4-of-7 from the free throw line and 5-for-9 from the field in the win. Sibley, who was the 2014-15 Southern Conference Freshman of the Year, also posted four boards and a pair of assists in the win, which was Furman's first over a non-conference foe since Dec. 9, 2013.

Rounding out the Paladins in double figures in the contest were Kendrec Ferrara and Daniel Fowler, who added 12 and 10 points, respectively, in the win. Ferrara led the Paladins with eight rebounds in the win, and was 5-for-9 from the field, including 2-for-2 from three-point land and had a blocked shot.

Fowler, who was a Freshman All-SoCon selection last season, also had five boards and three assists, connected on 4-for-6 shots from the field ad was 1-of-2 from three. Furman junior forward would not enjoy quite the same night as he had in the opener against Presbyterian, which saw him post a double-double, however, the native of Rejakajivk, Iceland contributed a team-leading four assists and grabbed four boards.

With Stephen Croone sidelined once again with a thumb injury, Furman head coach Niko Medved was forced to platoon the point guard position with the combination of Sibley, John Davis III and Jonathan Jean. Jean provided quality minutes off the bench for the Paladins, logging 15 minutes and posted seven points, three boards and three assists.

As it had gotten in the opening-season win over Presbyterian, Andrew Brown and Larry Wideman also provided some good minutes off the bench, with Brown adding five points, including a three-pointer, and Wideman's lone points of the night came on a triple.

Brown and Wideman logged 22 and 13 minutes, respectively, in the contest. Brown also registered a pair of steals and dished out three helpers. Nine of the 10 Paladins which saw action in the contest saw at least 10 minutes of court action.

"Hopefully he'll be back soon rather than later. He's going to have to play with a brace. He's obviously a terriffic player and a has a chance to be player of the year in our league. It's good to see the other guys learning to step up without him, so when he gets back we are a better basketball team," said Furman Head Coach Niko Medved.

Appalachian State was led in the contest by its dynamic backcourt of Chris Burgess and Frank Eaves, which saw the tandem combine for 37 of the Apps 70 points in the game, with Eaves leading all scorers with 20 points and Burgess finishing with 17.

Eaves, who entered the season as the leading returning scorer in the Sun Belt, finished going just 4-for-18 from the field, including 4-of-13 from three-point range in the contest. Like he did so many times last season for the Black and Gold, Eaves was able to garner 12 free throw attempts, connecting on eight of those attempts.

Burgess completed the night with the best night of any of the Mountaineers in terms of his all-around performance. The senior from Lakeland, FL, connected on seven of his 10 shots from the field, including 3-of-4 from three-point land. He totaled a team-high six assists, tallied four steals in 29 minutes of action.

Senior Michael Obacha, who did not play against Furman last season, posted eight points, eight boards and a pair of assists in what was a solid night for the senior from Nigeria. In two games to start the season, Obacha seems back to his form of a couple of a years ago, having opened the season with 11 and eight-point scoring performances, respectively.

"This is a very disappointing loss for us. We have to learn to respect the details. We have to learn to respect the little things. We kind of got exposed a little bit tonight. We had what we would call daggers against us tonight and how many of those shots did they hit with the shot clock winding down? A guy makes a mistake and leaves a man wide open for a three, and we just can't do that. We can't leave guys open," said Appalachian State head coach Jim Fox.

Furman would jump out to as much as a 10-point lead in the opening half of play, taking a 19-9 lead following a pair of Geoff Beans foul shots, but Appalachian would battle the entire way in the opening stanza, and would take a 27-26 lead--their first of the night--on a triple by Frank Eaves with 1:59 remaining in the opening half of play.

Furman would respond, however, as the Paladins would score six-straight points to seemingly regain command of the contest, as Ferrara added a three-pointer and a jumper, while Sibley had a free throw, giving the Paladins a 32-27 lead with just 30 seconds remaining in the opening half.

Appalachian, however, would close the half with some momentum, as freshman guard Bennett Holley connected on a short jumper at the buzzer, bringing the Mountaineers to within three, at 32-29, as the two teams entered the halftime locker room.

The second half would be a continuation of the exclamation buzzer beater at the end of the half by Holley, as the Mountaineers strung together a 6-0 run spanning both halves to to take a 33-32 lead on a Ronshad Shabazz layup early in the second half.

Furman swiftly re-took thelead the next time down on a three-pointer by Sibley, making it a 35-33 lead for the Paladins once again just 92 seconds into the second frame. The Mountaineers answered with a 1-for-2 trip to the charity stripe for Michael Obacha, to make it a one-point game with just under 18 minutes left.

After Kris Acox missed a pair of foul shots, a Chris Burgess lay-up staked the Mountaineers back to a 36-35 lead. The turnovers continued on both ends of the floor, as the Paladins and Mountaineers looked much like two teams playing in the month of November. Furman embarked on a 10-3 run, never trailing again in the game.

A Ferrara triple with a little over 16 minutes helped the Paladins regain the lead, at 38-36. Larry Wideman and Frank Eaves added foul shots for each team, as the Paladins maintained their two-point lead with a little under 15 minutes remaining. Matt Rafferty's two free throws helped Furman inch out to a two-possession lead, and then a a transition lay-up by Jean increased Furman's lead to as large as six points (43-37) before another Mountaineer free throw got it back to five.

A triple by Andrew Brown increased Furman's lead to eight (46-38), but once again the Apps responded with a Jacob Lawson dunk to cut the Mountaineer deficit back to six with 13:32 to play.

A foul shot and three by Frank Eaves got Appalachian within a bucket again, however, a Matt Rafferty lay-up made it 48-44, and after another Mountaineer 1-for-2 trip to the line, Daniel Fowler added a three-point the old-fashioned way on the other end, making it a 51-45.

An empty trip led to two more Rafferty free throws increased Furman's lead to eight with 10:30 remaining, and Rafferty would convert another layup following an Appalachian missed shot, as Furman took it second double-digit lead of the night, at 55-45, with 9:35 left.

Obacha converted a layup moments later on an assist by Burgess, but a short jumper the Rafferty show continued for the Paladins, as the freshman from Hinsdale, Ill knocked down a jumper from the baseline, which fattened Furman's lead back to double-digits, at 57-47, with 8:40 left and that score held until the under eight media timeout.

A pair of Shabazz foul shots cut the Mountaineer deficit back to eight, however, layups in transition by Rafferty and Fowler allowed Furman to take its largest lead of the night, at 61-49, with 7:15 left.

The Mountaineers would chip away at the double-digit Paladin lead when Burgess nailed a wide open three a minute later, which was abruptly followed by a foul on Obacha following the play, and the Mountaineers were in the double-bonus, giving the Mountaineers the rare opportunity at getting five points in a single trip down the floor. Following Obacha's, successful foul shots, the Black and Gold were agains within six, at 61-55.

But Rafferty's torrid second half would continue the next time down the floor, as got a perfect feed from Fowler and layed it in to increase Furman' s lead to eight. A free throw on the next possession made a nine point game again, but Burgess answered with a 15-foot jumper from the elbow to bring the Apps back to within seven (64-57) with just under five left to play.

After Brown missed a three, a Dustin Clarke fade-a-way jumper brought Appalachian even closer, at 64-59, with 3:49 remaining in the contest, and the Mountaineers called timeout. A rare missed layup by Rafferty and a pair of free throws by Griffin Kinney following a fourth personal foul by Ferrara brought the Mountaineers within three, at 64-61, however, on the next trip down the floor Kinney fouled out of the contest and Sibley made 1-of-2 free throws, making it 65-61 with 2:43 left.

A pair of free throws by Eaves following Fowler's fourth foul made it a two point game, however, Fowler canned a three on the ensuing possessession brought Furman's lead back to five, at 68-63, with 2:10 left. A missed three from the corner led to an Acox rebound and eventually a pair of free throw makes by Sibley made it a 70-63 game.

However, Sibley picked up his fourth foul on the other end and Lawson converted a three-point play the old-fashioned way, but on Furman's next possession, Sibley answered with a triple with a little over a minute left to make it 73-66 with 1:08 left. Appalachian converted a layup to make a five point game, however, Rafferty would get fouled off the ball and would convert a pair of foul shots to make it 75-68.

The Paladins would close out the game with four-straight foul shots from Rafferty and Gene Langan, and finished off a 79-70 win in Boone.

The Paladins finished the night connecting on 47.1% (24-for-51) of their shots from the field in the contest, and posted a 47.6% (10-for-21) from three-point range in the impressive road win. The Paladins held a narrow 39-36 advantage on the backboards, and turned it over just 12 times in the contest.

Appalachian shot 42.3% (22-of-52) from the field and made 8-of-19 threes.

"We didn't play well, but there were some positives that came out of tonight. I thought Chris Burgess played really well, and as a team at times we did some things really well, particularly on offense. Give Furman credit they are a good team, but we have to get a lot better," said Fox.

Furman returns to the floor on Thursday night in the Queen City, taking on the Charlotte Forty-Niners at Halton Arena, with tip-off slated for 7 p.m. The Paladins are expected to see Stephen Croone cleared to play in that game.

Appalachian State will travel north to Hampton on Friday night, as the Mountaineers get ready to embark on a month-long road trip before returning to face, ironically, Charlotte on Dec. 19 at the Holmes Center. Tip-off for the Appalachian-Hamptoon matchup is slated for 6 p.m.

NOTES:

—Furman's road win over a non-conference foe marks the first time since Dec. 30, 2013 when the Paladins posted a 75-65 win at UC Davis. The road win was just the fifth of the Niko Medved tenure (The Citadel twice, UC Davis, Presbyterian, Appalachian State), as the Paladins improved to 5-26 in games away from Timmons Arena under Medved's leadership.

—The 79 points by the Paladins in Tuesday night's win marked just the eighth time in Medved's 65 games as head coach that the Paladins have scored 79 or more points, and just the fifth time the Paladins have recorded as many points against a Division I foe. The Paladins have now done it twice against the Apps, also posting 84 points in a 19-point home win last season