Furman must brush off Tuesday night's heartbreaker and focus on moving forward because the next opponent is one that is picked the league and one that has looked as good as any in mid-major basketball to this point on the season.
The Chattanooga Mocs enter the matchup with a 13-2 overall record and a 2-0 start to Southern Conference play, as the Mocs have been red-hot to start the season. The Mocs were the No. 2 seed in the Southern Conference basketball tournament last season when the Paladins were able to stun UTC, knocking out the 22-win Mocs with a 69-67 win over the Mocs in Asheville.
The Mocs have been back on the radar in SoCon basketball each of the past two seasons, entering the postseason as the No. 2 seed each of the past two seasons, but are now in search of the program's first regular-season title since the 2011 North Division crown and outright regular-season title since 1994 with the league in its current non-division league format. All told, the Mocs have a total of 10 regular-season crowns to their credit, and 10 Southern Conference Tournament crowns, and 10 NCAA Tournament appearances. The Mocs haven't been to the big dance since the 2009 NCAA Tournament, when the Mocs won the tournament crown on their home floor with an 80-69 win over College of Charleston to claim the crown.
The Mocs are no doubt the gold standard of Southern Conference basketball, despite the recent success of Wofford on the Southern Conference hardwood, or the recent addition of Mercer, who is starting to build its tradition strong just like the Mocs did. Great names like Murray Arnold, Mack McCarthy, Henry Dickerson and John Shulman helped stabilize a strong foundation for Chattanooga basketball over the years, and it was Arnold that helped the Mocs break through and experience their first real success as a basketball program, with program's first national title under the direction of Murray Arnold, who led Chattanooga to the 1977 Division II National Title with a 71-62 win over Randolph-Macon in the title game, planting the seeds of a program that would go on to become one of the premier mid-major basketball programs in the nation.
Though there are plenty of moments to pick from the history of Chattanooga basketball in this first of a two-part series taking a look at the rivalry, in this first edition, perhaps the greatest team in the history of Chattanooga basketball was the 1996-97 team that matriculated as far as the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament before bowing out against Austin Croshere, God Shamgod and the Providence Friars in Birmingham, losing 64-58.
Players like point guard Wes Moore--no not the former head women's coach--but a walk-on player that more than made his presence known in the Scenic City.Moore would complete his career as the program's all-time leader in three-pointers made (174), while Willie "Free for Three" Young showed both Georgia and Illinois in the opening two rounds that he could score the basketball in a variety of different ways.
Young went on to finish ninth in a single-season in three-pointers made, canning 62 triples and he ended up averaging 14.2 PPG at season's end, and ranked among the top of the SoCon in steals and assists. Isaac Connor, who was a reliable sophomore, proved he could also be an asset shooting the trey, and by the time the lanky Connor graduated in 1999, he ranked fifth in program history in triples made with 149.
Then there was Chris Mims. The kid from Alabama that took nothing off of anyone--a tough, hard-nosed athletic kid who would not be denied on the offensive or defensive end when it came to grabbing a rebound. With white socks pulled up high and tremendous athleticism play bigger than his 6-5 height at the four. Mims reminds me of former Wofford big man Tim Johnson in that he did everything to help that team win ballgames, and his numbers were similar to that of Johnson's, posting 10.7 PPG and 7.4 RPG.
But it was obvious there was one distinct player that set the Mocs apart from anyone in the SoCon, and he was the Stephen Curry before the Stephen Curry. In fact, during Taylor's two seasons in the Scenic City for the Mocs after coming in from Indian Hills Community College, it was a time within the SoCon basketball landscape, which saw JUCO transfers like Frankie King have a huge impact on the league, leading the nation in scoring for much of the 1994-95 season.This season's Mocs have made a similar run to the top of the Southern Conference as that 1996-97 team, getting out to a fast start, and rather than defeating Georgia and Illinois in the NCAA Tournament, the 2015-16 Mocs did it in the regular-season. While the foundation of the program is built upon the shoulders of aforementioned greats like Arnold, McCarthy and Shulman, but have now given way to a couple of new, younger faces on the sidelines that have led a renaissance of hoops in the Scenic City after a few stagnant seasons in the final few years of John Shulman's tenure.
Will Wade and Matt McCall have helped the Mocs to a combined 53 wins through 2.5 seasons as head coaches of the Mocs. Wade left following the 2014-15 season to take the head coaching job at VCU.
The 13-2 start to the season for Chattanooga is the best start since Gerald Wilkins took the floor for the Mocs back in 1984, and a ninth-straight win on Saturday over Furman would mark the program's best start since that 1983-84 team won 14 of its first 16 games to start the season.
Chattanooga's lone losses came to Louisiana Monroe (L, 64-54) and at then No. 3 Iowa State (L, 83-63). The Mocs' most impressive win of the season has to be a 61-59 win over Atlantic 10 member Dayton, and the Mocs rank in the mid-30s in RPI entering Saturday's showdown in Greenville. The Mocs rank No. 8 in the Mid-Major Madness poll, while placing sixth in the CollegeInsider.com poll.
The Mocs and Paladins will doing battle on the college basketball hardwood for the 81st time on Saturday afternoon, with the Mocs holding a commanding 52-28 all-time series edge. The Paladins have even had trouble winning on their own floor against the Mocs over the years, and the series is tied 18-18 between the Mocs and Paladins in games played in Greenville. It has been since the 2011-12 season, which saw the Paladins post a 65-55 win over the Mocs on Feb. 23, 2012.
Coming into Saturday's clash at Timmons Arena, the Mocs have won four of the past five meetings between the two, including each of the past four regular-season meetings between the two. Furman's elimination of Chattanooga in the Southern Conference Tournament Quarterfinals was the only win by the Paladins in the past five clashes with the Paladins.
A Quick Look At Last Season's Three Meetings Between Furman and Chattanooga:
Game 1: CHATTANOOGA 72, FURMAN 60 (Jan. 8, 2015/McKenzie Arena)
What Happened: All-SoCon guard Casey Jones scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed six rebounds, as Chattanooga dispatched of Furman, 72-60, in Southern Conference basketball action Saturday night at the McKenzie Arena. In The 72-60 setback Jones, who posted 13 points and 13 rebounds in a win for the Mocs at Timmons Arena last season, was one of four Mocs in double figures, as he was joined by Justin Tuoyo (14 pts), Greg Pryor (12 pts) and Ronrico White (12 pts). The Mocs' starting backcourt of White, Pryor and Jones combined to score 44 of the team's 72 points in the contest. Tuoyo proved his worth in the paint for the Mocs, particularly on the defensive end, as he recorded four of the team's six blocks. Tuoyo connected on 5-of-9 shots from the field, with three of those shots being dunks. For the 31st-straight game, the Paladins got a double-figures scoring effort from Stephen Croone, who hit his average with 18 points and was one of two in double figures, joined by Kendrec Ferrara, who finished with 13. Croone added three assists and two steals, while Ferrara had six boards and a block to go with his 13 points. Geoff Beans, who came in as Furman's second-leading scorer, averaging 12.4 PPG, was held to just three points on 1-of-2 from the field before fouling out with about four minutes to play. The Paladins connected on just 3-of-10 from three-point range on the night. The Paladins' 10 three-point field goal attempts were a season low, eclipsing the previous low of 12 three-point attempts in the opener against College of Charleston.
Game 2: CHATTANOOGA 74 FURMAN 71 (OT) (Feb. 5, 2015/Timmons Arena)
What Happened: In the second meeting between the two, it would be a big game by Justin Tuoyo, which saw him finish by scoring 18 points of his 20 points in the second half, as Chattanooga downed Furman 74-71 in overtime. The Bucs started to create a little distance between themselves and the Paladins after a dunk off a breakaway, but Furman would inch back into the game with four-straight points by Stephen Croone, tying the game, 69-69. After Chattanooga missed a shot on the other end, the Paladins' Devin Sibley had a great chance to give the Paladins the lead, but his three-pointer missed off the back iron with half-a-minute remaining. Furman tried to foul on the inbounds pass, however, Tre McLean found a wide open Justin Tuoyo for a dunk to make it a 73-69 Mocs lead. After Daniel Fowler scored in the paint to bring Furman within two, at 73-71, Ronrico White connected on 1-of-2 foul shots at the line to help the Mocs escape with a 74-71 victory. Stephen Croone ended the contest leading all scorers, as he posted 31 points on 10-of-17 shooting from the field.
Game 3: FURMAN 69, CHATTANOOGA 67
What Happened: In what was no doubt the upset of the Southern Conference Tournament last year, Furman handed Chattanooga a surprising 69-67 setback, as the Paladins moved on to the semifinal round of the league's annual postseason tournament to face Mercer. The Paladins would rebound from an early deficit, as the Paladins played good defense and sank 10 of their final 12 fould shots en route to shocking the No. 2 seeded Chattanooga Mocs. Chattanooga's season came to an abrupt end with a 22-10 record.
Southern Conference Flashback
Jan. 3, 2006
Timmons Arena/Greenville, S.C.
Furman 76 Chattanooga 71
GREENVILLE, S.C.--Looking back a decade ago this week, Furman opened Southern Conference play with a game against perennial league power Chattanooga at Timmons Arena. The Mocs entered the 2005-06 campaign as the reigning Southern Conference champions under second-year head coach John Shulman, and though many of the players had departed that had helped the Mocs make the run back to the top of the Southern Conference, the general feeling in the matchup, as it always was, that the Mocs would once again be in the thick of the Southern Conference race in 2005-06.
For Furman, who was under the direction on ninth-year head coach Larry Davis, the game offered a chance for the Paladins to prove they were going to be major threats in the Southern Conference race, as the Paladins entered the campaign as one of the preseason league favorites. The Paladins were selected to finish second in the SoCon's South Division, receiving one first place vote at the league's annual media day.
Furman would do little to damage their preseason expectations in the Southern Conference opener at Timmons Arena against the Mocs on Jan. 3, 2006, posting a 76-71 win over their visitors from the Scenic City. The Mocs and Paladins, of course, will square off in a key league battle this Saturday at Timmons Arena, in a game slated for 12:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Southeast, and has been billed as the designated "Southern Conference Game of the Week."
During its 2005 run to the Southern Conference title run, the Mocs had put together some magic, as it reeled off 20 wins en route to winning the Southern Conference Tournament with a 66-62 win over surprising UNC Greensboro, as the Mocs on its home floor of McKenzie Arena.
The Mocs rode the cape of players like Alphonso Pugh, Mindaugas Katelynas, Chris Brown and Casey Long to their first Southern Conference Tournament crown since winning the 1997 SoCon crown. The 2005 title for the Mocs marked the ninth in program history for Chattanooga, which was more than any other Southern Conference member. The Mocs would be knocked out in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, with a 70-54 loss to Wake Forest in a game that was much closer than the final score would indicate.
The problem that greeted the Mocs entering Southern Conference play in 2005-06 was the fact that many of those key pieces had departed from that team that had helped the Mocs lift the trophy for the first time in eight years. There was enough returning, however, to help the Mocs be a factor once again in the 2005-06 Southern Conference race, including Long and Pugh. The addition of standout JUCO scorer Keddric Mays in the backcourt also had many in the Scenic City excited about the prospects of year two for John Shulman at the helm.
Furman entered Southern Conference play coming off a 6-5 record in non-conference play, and a 2004-05 that had seen the Paladins make a strong statement, hitting a school record 267 three-point field goals en route to a 16-13 finish.
The matchup a decade ago between the Paladins and Mocs would play out as one of the better games in the first month of league play, and when the final buzzer sounded on the first Southern Conference outing of the new year, the Paladins had a hard-fought 76-71 win over Chattanooga.
Furman would be powered by Robby Bostain and Moussa Diagne, who posted 17 and 15 points, respectively, helping lead the Paladins to a come-from-behind win over the defending Southern Conference champions.
The early-season clash between the Paladins and Mocs was one that featured 11 lead changes and 11 ties between two evenly matched foes expected to battle for a Southern Conference title a decade ago.
Furman would trail the Mocs, 62-59, with 6:52 remaining when junior wing guard Gerad Punch would help ignite a late Paladin rally, as he connected on consecutive layups on beautiful feeds from Paladin guard and all-time three-point field goals leader Eric Webb. After Diagne added a pair of foul shots, the Paladins had turned a three-point deficit into a three-point lead, at 65-62.
The Paladins and Mocs would trade buckets on the next two possessions, and then, veteran guard Tony Carter found Diagne on the right baseline for a monster dunk off, extending Furman's lead to five points, at 71-66. Keddric Mays hit a three on the Mocs' ensuing possession but Diagne and the Paladins kept coming.
First, the junior forward from Thies, Senegal, got a lay-up off the glass to help Furman make it a 73-69 Furman lead with a little over a minute remaining. Chattanoonga's Long made it a 73-71 with a bucket with 48 seconds remaining, but it would be Diagne that would close out the thrilling five-point win for the Paladins, as he received a pass from Punch and threw it down for another dunk, while being fouled in the process. The three-point play allowed Furman to escape a tough, gritty Chattanooga team, 76-71, at Timmons Arena, as the Paladins opened Southern Conference play with a win.
Chattanooga was led in the contest by Mays, who scored 12 points and dished out five assists, while Pugh added 11. Steve Cherry and Charles Anderson added 10 points apiece. The Mocs struggled shooting the ball from three-point range in the contest, knocking down just 6-of-23 shots from long-range, including going 1-for-11 in the second half.The Paladins weren't much better in the contest, connecting on just 9-for-31 attempts from three-point land, but shot the ball well from the field, completing the contest connecting on 48% (29-of-60) from the field.
Previewing The Mocs:
Chattanooga comes into the contest having been dominant over the past three seasons on the Southern Conference hardwood. In fact, the Mocs have posted an impressive 29-7 record against Southern Conference regular-season foes over the past two-plus seasons, and the Mocs have looked impressive in wins over The Citadel (W, 84-78) on the road, while defeating Mercer (W,74-62) at home. Losses over the past two seasons have come against Wofford, Western Carolina, UNCG, Mercer, Davidson, Georgia Southern and Samford.
While Will Wade was left with some talent when he took the job at Chattanooga a couple of years back, he has certainly left the job in an even better position for new head coach Matt McCall, who took over for Wade after Wade left for VCU this past spring. McCall was one of Billy Donovan's leading assistants during his time at Florida.
The key to beating the Mocs this season has been simple. Don't let them get to the 70-point mark. So far this season, Chattanooga is 11-0 this season when scoring 70 or more points, and UTC has reached 80 points eight times this season.
The Mocs come in with a versatile team, and despite missing preseason SoCon Player of the Year Casey Jones, who is out indefinitely with an ankle injury, and the Mocs, somewhat surprisingly, have almost played better without him since he went out of the lineup just before Christmas. The fact is, the Mocs have one of the the deepest teams in the Southern Conference coming into Saturday's matchup.
Leading the charge without the services of the do-everything Jones so far this season has been point guard Greg Pryor, and he is one of the old heads in the league, and one of the most experienced point guards will see in SoCon play this season. Pryor is the type player that would just as well beat his defender with a great pass than to pull up and hit the three with a defender all over him, but the fact is, he can do both.
Pryor is one of the most versatile point guards in the Southern Conference and his veteran leadership has put the Mocs in the great position they are in as not only league title favorites, but a team that should it win the Southern Conference Tournament, would be one of those teams that could end up getting a very respectable seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Pryor comes into the contest averaging 10.2 PPG, and in terms of assist/turnover ratio this season, and Pryor comes into the contest ranking fifth in both assists (3.7 APG) and steals (1.7 SPG). His 37.9% shooting from beyond the arc ranks the junior 11th in the league, as he has knocked down 19-of-51 from three-point range so far this season. Pryor also ranks fifth in the SoCon in assist/turnover ratio (1.9). In the game against Mercer the last time out, it was Pryor that posted his first-career double-double by contributing It's nothing new for Robertson, who was the league's top perimeter threat last season, hitting a whopping 48.6% from three-point range for the season. Robertson had a stretch this season in which he posted three-consecutive double-figure games, including a 15-point efforts against Kennesaw State and Tennessee Tech, and an 18-point outing against Lipscomb.
During that four-game string, Robertson hit 19 field goals, with 18 of those field goals coming from beyond the arc. In fact, on the season, Robertson has 46 field goals, with 39 of them being from three-point range.
In a recent win over Lipscomb, Robertson posted his best game of the season, finishing with 18 points, with 15 of those points coming from five triples. His career-best for three-pointers made in a game in his career is six, which he accomplished against ETSU last season. In the win over Mercer in his last outing, Robertson connected on his 150th-career triple.
The Mocs are equally as strong in the frontcourt, led by Justin Tuoyo (9.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, ), who is one of those players that coach McCall can thank his predecessor Will Wade for. When Wade took the Chattanooga job back in 2013, as he arrived from VCU, Tuoyo came with him.
The 6-10 center has been dominant ever since, and the All-America candidate and 2014-15 Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year has been sensational for the Mocs, especially on the defensive end of the floor. In less than two years as a Moc, Tuoyo is already the program's all-time shot-blocker and many feel he is the league's premier big man. Of his 45 games as a Moc, he has recorded more than one block in 39 of them.
Tuouyo is without question the most dominating big man in the Southern Conference. He turned out some huge performances against the Paladins last season, particularly in the season meeting when he posted 20 points, with 18 of those team-high 20 points coming in the second half alone. Tuoyo also added a pair of blocks on the defensive end, and posted seven rebounds. Perhaps most impressive was his composure down the stretch for the Mocs in the road win over the Paladins, as he finished by going 6-for-6 from the charity stripe.
This season, Tuoyo is back up to his old tricks once again, as he has already swatted away 31 shots this season to easily lead the league in that category. He has recorded four or more blocks four times in his career and those games include: Hiwassee (4); at Illinois (4) vs. Alabama State (4) and Radford (4).
He has six offensive performances which have seen him finish in double figures this season, including 21 points on an impressive 10-of-14 performance from the field in a win over Kennesaw State. He was a perfect 6-for-6 from the field for a 12-point outing in the win over Alabama State.
One of his most impressive performances of the season came in the win over Mercer the other night, as he poured in 11 points to go with three blocks and five boards to help the Mocs post a huge win over a team widely regarded as the second-best club in the league, in the Mercer Bears.
So far this season, Tuoyo's 53.1% field goal percentage ranks him fifth in the SoCon in field goal percencentage to this point this season. Rounding out the projected starting five for Chattanooga for Saturday's clash with the Paladins will be 6-7 junior forward Chuck Ester (7.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG). Ester is big and athletic and can be a game-changer if his opponent in the post can't match him athletically or his physicality. To me, Ester is very comparable to Furman's Kris Acox in the ways he can affect a basketball game. It was Ester that had the big-time dunk off the left baseline off a nice feed from Ronrico White for Chattanooga's first two points of the Southern Conference Tournament against the Paladins in the 2015 SoCon Tournament Quarterfinal in Asheville.
That emphatic jam would have set the tone had come against a Furman much earlier in the campaign, and it's those kinds of plays that Ester can make for this team--similar to the type of dunk and it's overall effect that Acox provided with his tip-dunk in the ensuing matchup with Mercer in the semifinals.
So far this season, Ester has found himself in double figures on four occasions, and he even established his career for points earlier in the campaign against Radford, which were a vital 13 points that helped the Mocs pick up an important win over gritty Radford. He grabbed a career-high nine boards against The Citadel in the Southern Conference opener.
As far as Chattanooga's reserves are concerned, McCall will look to play about a seven-eight man rotation, with Duke Etheridge (8.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG), College of Charleston transfer Jonathan Burroughs-Cook (8.5 PPG, 2.1 RPG), and UT-Martin transfer Dee Oldham (5.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG) being the main players to come off the bench for the first-year coach. The best of the bunch is obviously Burroughs-Cook, who is an outstanding athlete.
Burroughs-Cook, a 6-2 wing guard, put together his strongest effort of the season against Georgia in the 92-90 overtime win in the season opener. He posted 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field and went 3-for-8 from three-point range to enable the Mocs to win over Georgia in the battle over the two schools that once had a Wilkins, as Gerald got the better of Dominique.
As a team, Chattanooga rolls into Greenville firing on all cylinders, ranking second in the SoCon in scoring offense (77.0 PPG), third in scoring defense (67.1 PPG), first in field goal percentage (47%), first in three-point field goal percentage (38.6%), sixth in field goal percentage defense (43.4%), and sixth in three-point field goal percentage defense (33.6%).
Quick Furman Player Notes Heading Into UTC Matchup:
G #14 Stephen Croone (15.5 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.5 APG)--Since removing the brace from his hand, Stephen Croone is starting to come into his own this season for the Paladins like many thought he would. He has three 20-point scoring performances this season, with two in the past two games, including a season-high 27 points in the road loss to UNCG. Croone had a big game at Timmons Arena against the Mocs a year ago, posting 31 points in Furman's overtime loss to the Mocs. Croone's five triples against the Spartans last time out were the most he has tallied in any one game this season. Croone has reached double figures in 69 of his past 73 games, and posted a career-high 40 points in a win over Liberty back in December of 2013. His 333-career assists and 156 place him ninth and seventh on the school's ledgers, respectively, in both categories. He has scored 1,774-career points, which ranks him 13th in program history in score. He needs just 16 points to surpass former Furman legend Clyde Mayes on the program's all-time scoring list. Mayes led Furman to a pair of SoCon titles and NCAA Tournament appearances in the mid-1970s.
G #1 John Davis III (5.6 PPG, 1.9 APG)--Has played well since being inserted into the starting lineup for the Paladins this season, and has seemingly settled the team when he enters the lineup. Davis III is slated to make his fifth-straight start tomorrow against the Chattanooga Mocs since being inserted for the first time prior to the Navy game. Davis III also made a pair of starts at the beginning of the season to enable Stephen Croone to full get back to health. Davis III has one double-figure scoring game this season, posting 10 points against Bluefield earlier this season. He is shooting a solid 38.9% (14-for-36) from three-point range so far in 2015-16. His best game of his career came against Wofford in the regular-season finale last season, posting a career-best 20 points in the narrow, 62-60, loss to the eventual Southern Conference champion Terriers. This season, Davis is taking excellent care of the basketball, dishing out 27 helpers while only committing 12 turnovers. He has also posted 12 steals this season, and ranks second on the team in three-point field goal percentage. When these two teams met in the Southern Conference Tournament last season, Davis finished right on the verge of double figures in scoring in the contest, as he posted nine points on 3-of-5 shooting from the field and 2-for-4 shooting from three-point land.
G #35 Daniel Fowler (6.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG)--Sophomore guard Daniel Fowler provides a bit of everything for the Paladins, and at times, nightmares for the opposition. From being a defensive stopper on one end, to being one of the team's best passers out of the post on the other, the native of Ackworth, GA, has started all but one game in his Paladin career, which came earlier this season. Fowler is one of the team's best finishers at the rim, and like Croone, is an extremely good athlete. This season, he has improved his touch from beyond the arc and comes in and has also been excellent at getting to the rim and drawing fouls. He has had some strong performances this season for the Paladins, including a pair of double-figure games in wins over Appalachian State and and against Mount St. Mary's. The Paladins are 2-0 when Fowler has finished in double figures this season. Against Mount St. Mary's, Fowler also registered 10 boards in the win over the Mountaineers for his lone double-double of the season. As a three-point threat this season, Fowler has been able to knock down 40% (16-of-40) from three-point land this season. In his last outing against Chattanooga, he posted eight points and blocked a shot. He comes into Saturday afternoon's contest with 14 steals and has 52 thefts for his career.
F #21 Kris Acox (8.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 58.8 FG%)--The 6-6 native of Reykjavik, Iceland is one of the hardest working big men in the SoCon. For Furman fans who remember Derek Waugh, he's that type player, only while Waugh was more polished around the hoop, Acox has him in athleticism. Like Waugh, Acox gives Furman the toughness it needs to win games like ones against the Chattanoogas, Mercers and Wofford of the SoCon. This season, Acox currently comes in ranking eighth in the SoCon in rebounding and leads the SoCon in field goal percentage. When Acox plays well, it usually equates well for the Paladins. In the six games Acox has finished in double figures in this season, as Furman is 6-0 when Acox reaches double digits this season. The only win the Paladins have under their belts without Acox reaching double figures was a 79-70 win at Appalachian State. Acox was a SoCon All-Tournament selection last season, and he had nine points, nine boards, two blocks and a steal in the Furman 69-67 win in Asheville last season. The junior has registered a pair of double-doubles this season.
C #32 Matt Rafferty (9.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG)--In many ways, Matt Rafferty, a native of Hinsdale, Ill, is a throw-back player. He is reminiscent in many ways to some of Davidson's players like Logan and Landry Kosmalski, in that he is a tough, hard-nosed player that knows the game of basketball. He enters the contest against the Mocs ranking second in the league in rebounding, and ranks eighth in field goal percentage shooting, knocking down his shots at a 50% clip from the field. He has taken the league by storm and is no doubt of the league's premier newcomers. Rafferty has found his way into double figures on seven occasions this season, and has four double-doubles. He posted a career-high 19 points in the Paladins' road win at former SoCon rival Appalachian State. His most recent outing reaching double digits for the Paladins came in a narrow 67-65 loss at UNC Asheville, as he finished with 12 points. He not only shoots well from inside the arc, but can also be a threat from three-point land, having knocked down 10-of-29 three this season, which converts to 34.5%.
Players That Could Be Key Off The Bench:
G #12 Devin Sibley (8.3 PPG, 2.5 RPG)--One player that will be hoping to get out to a fast start against the Mocs and Furman's top scorer coming off the bench is Devin Sibley. The 2015 Southern Conference Freshman of the Year has had some struggles this season, but the Knoxville, Tenn native looks to be getting things in order the past couple of games. He poured in 16 points in a recent loss at UNC Asheville, and has posted six points in each of the past two outings against VMI and UNCG. So far this season, Sibley has reached double figures six times, but has yet to have one of those games like he did last season against Mercer, UNCG and The Citadel, which saw him score better than 20 in each of those contests. His best game this season came in an 18-point outburst against Appalachian State in a 79-70 road win. Sibley has knocked down 32% (16-of-50) from three-point land this season.
F #03 Geoff Beans (4.3 PPG, 1.5 RPG)--If Geoff Beans can find his shooting touch, it could be a breakout performance for the 6-7 forward from Toledo. Beans has connected on 15-of-57 (26.3%) from three this season, but his shot seems to be getting better with each game. If he finds it today, he could be the x-factor against the talented Mocs.
G #24 Larry Wideman (2.6 PPG, 2.0 RPG)--Maybe the most key player off the bench is Larry Wideman, who was recently called by head coach Niko Medved as Furman's best on-the-ball defender. He'll need to be special today as he will face a steady diet of Tre McLean, who is quickly becoming one of the most improved players in the SoCon, and is having an All-SoCon season.
F/C #30 Kendrec Ferrara (5.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG)--Perhaps no Paladin performed with such consistency against the Mocs, as senior Kendrec Ferrara did last season. He had one of the games of his career when he posted nine points, seven blocks, five boards and an assist in last season's overtime loss to the Mocs at Timmons Arena. The win in the tournament saw Ferrara nearly duplicate the same feat, with nine points, nine boards and four blocks. His leadership and perimeter shooting off the bench could be a necessity against a very deep UTC club today.
**Furman doesn't win much against the team picked to win the SoCon, but in Jan. of 2011, the Paladins went to Wofford and posted a 73-68 win over the Terriers. In 2005-06 and facing league favorites Davidson, the Paladins posted a 70-66 win in Timmons Arena.
Final Score Prediction: Chattanooga 73, Furman 68