Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Frenetic Winthrop surges past Furman

Things literally went from bad to worse for the Furman men's basketball team Wednesday night. The Paladins trailed Winthrop by 17 with 8:43 left in the first half when Devin Sibley left with an injury and never returned. Trying to climb out of that kind of hole without the reigning Southern Conference Player of the Year proved too difficult for Furman, as the Eagles cruised to a 93-74 win at Timmons Arena.

The Paladins entered looking to avenge a one-point overtime loss at Winthrop last year in which the Eagles won on a desperation 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left. It became quickly evident Wednesday that Furman would be the one in need of a miracle.

Eight of Winthrop's first 10 made field goals were layups as the the Eagles built a 24-10 lead just 9:02 in the game. That set the tone for the night as Winthrop finished with 54 points in the paint. The Eagles played a frenetic, yet controlled, pace and simply appeared faster than the Paladins.

While Winthrop consistently drove to the basket, Furman settled for 3-pointers that didn't fall. The Paladins missed their first six 3-pointers and was already down 15 when Daniel Fowler hit Furman's first three with 9:45 left in the first half. The Paladins were 5-of-24 (20.8 percent) from beyond the arc for the game.

"I think it was pretty clear that they were the tougher team tonight," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "We knew they were really going to try to attack us off the bounce. ... We just couldn't guard the ball.
"As they say, 'fat pigs gets slaughtered.' I think we started thinking we'd done something coming off this Nashville trip (two wins over the weekend). ... I don't think we came out with the mental edge and toughness needed to play a team that good and that well-coached."

Fowler's 3-pointer cut Winthrop's lead to 27-15, but Winthrop flew back down the court and Xavier Cooks scored on a dunk. On Furman's ensuing possession, Sibley came away holding his right side near the hip. With a 5-and-4 advantage, the Eagles got a 3-pointer from Bjorn Broman to make it 32-15 before play was stopped and Sibley exited. The current SoCon Player of the Week was 0-for-4 in his nine minutes of play.

"Devin got hit on a rebound, tried to play through it, and then got hit on the same spot," Richey said. "I'm sure it's a day-to-day deal. From what I'm being told, it's nothing major."

Winthrop took its biggest lead of the first half on a four-point play by Nych Smith that pushed the advantage to 43-21 with 6:40 left. The Eagles were 21-of-37 (56.8 percent) from the floor in the first half to take a 52-32 lead into halftime. Winthrop became the first team to score 52 in a half against Furman since Feb. 12, 2015 at VMI. The Eagles were the first opposing team to score 52 in a half at Timmons Arena since Mars Hill on Dec. 10, 2013.

John Davis scored Furman's first six points of the second half and Jordan Lyons' 3-pointer cut Winthrop's lead to 16 with 17:47 left, but the Paladins could never get closer. Josh Ferguson's layup with 14:02 left gave the Eagles their biggest lead at 66-42.

"They just drove us and drove us and drove us," Richey said. "For whatever reason - and I'm not really interested in the reasons - we just mentally and physically got whipped tonight.
"The foundation of this program has always been defense and it's one of those deals where you've got to figure out a way to respond."

Cooks had 24 points, 10 rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals to lead Winthrop (4-3). The blocks gave Cooks the all-time lead in school history with 166. He's also the second-leading rebounder in Winthrop history with 774. Ferguson had 17 points, 13 rebounds and three steals also for the Eagles.

Daniel Fowler had 16 points, two blocks and two steals for Furman (4-3). Matt Rafferty added 13 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, while John Davis and Clay Mounce scored 12 and 11 points, respectively.

Furman next hosts Tennessee Tech at 4 p.m. Saturday.

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