Tuesday, November 28, 2017

After busy road trip, Furman set for 5 at home

Furman's Devin Sibley has earned Southern Conference
Player of the Week honors. Photo courtesy of Furman.
After a Thanksgiving week of adventurous travel in which the Furman's men's basketball team went 2-2 over eight days, the Paladins begin a five-game homestand Wednesday against Winthrop. Tip-off at Timmons Arena is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Playing in the PK80: Phil Knight Invitational, Furman put plenty of miles on its Nikes last week. On Thursday, Nov. 16, the Paladins bused to Charlotte, where it flew out of the next morning to Indianapolis. On Saturday, Nov. 18, Furman fell to Butler, 82-65, at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse. After the game, Furman flew back to Charlotte then got back on the bus to head to Durham, N.C. After a day of rest and a walk-through Sunday, the Paladins fell at Duke, 92-63, last Monday. Furman boarded the bus after the game and arrived back in Greenville well after midnight. Just a few hours later, the Paladins were back in classes.

"We had guys that had presentations that next morning," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "That's always the fine balance here. You've got all this travel. You've got the end of the semester at a school where you've got real academics. At the same time, you've got about 30 things you feel like you've got to get better at."

The Paladins definitely looked to have gotten better in a least a few of those as the road trip resumed last Wednesday when the Paladins bused to Nashville, Tenn. After having Thanksgiving together as a team, the Paladins were back on the court the next day. Furman recorded a 78-64 win over New Hampshire before a 78-67 win over Northeastern on Saturday. The Paladins then bused home and arrived back in Greenville late Saturday night.

Coming off the two losses to heavily favored teams, those two victories were solid wins. Especially considering the travel schedule and the fact that Furman (4-2) was playing in a nearly empty arena both nights. The victories kept the Paladins at No. 21 in the latest CollegeInsider Mid-Major Top 25.

"In recruiting, the Colonial (CAA) tries to make a big gap from the SoCon, so it's nice to get off to a 2-0 start against the Colonial (wins over Elon and New Hampshire)," Richey said. "More importantly, they were against two teams that were bigger than us and our style won out.
"There's still a ton to improve on, but it was definitely good to get double-digit victories."

In the win over New Hampshire, Furman had 19 assists on 29 made field goals. Eight different Paladins had at least two assists in what was truly a team effort of sharing the ball. Furman had 13 assists the next day.

"That's something we've always harped on. We did a poor job of that in the Butler game. We did a better job of moving the ball in the Duke game, we just didn't shoot it well," Richey said. "What's also cool is - knock on wood - this is the lowest turnover rate we've had at this point in the year since I've been here.
"The thing that's interesting is, I still feel like we're due for a really, really good shooting night. We're shooting the ball okay, but we can shoot the ball better."

Devin Sibley had a combined 42 points and 19 rebounds in those two wins over the weekend and was honored as the Southern Conference Player of the Week. Sibley leads the team with an average of 18.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Three other Paladins average in double-figure scoring - John Davis III (12.3), Daniel Fowler (11.5) and Matt Rafferty (10.7).

On Wednesday, Furman will try to avenge a 58-57 overtime loss suffered at Winthrop last season. Anders Broman banked in a desperation 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left to win the game for the Eagles.

Winthrop (3-3) is led by senior forward Xavier Cooks, who averages 14.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.

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