Sunday, December 17, 2017

Hot-shooting Paladins get fifth consecutive win

Devin Sibley scored 24 points Sunday to lead Furman to a 90-84
win at UNC-Wilmington. Photo courtesy of Furman.
There's nothing quite like hot shooting to help overcome other things that aren't going your way on the basketball court. Furman shot 56.4 percent from the floor, and connected on 13-of-26 3-pointers, in a 90-84 win at UNC-Wilmington Sunday afternoon. It's UNCW's first non-conference home loss since Dec. 21, 2013.

The Paladins (9-3) earned their fifth consecutive win despite getting outrebounded 40-29 and shooting just 60 percent (15-of-25) from the foul line. Things were especially tough in those departments in the first half, but Furman hit nine 3-pointers to take a 47-44 lead into halftime.

In the second half, Furman posted an 18-16 edge in rebounding and got back on track at the foul line. The Paladins, who entered Saturday having made 76.3 percent of their foul shots this season, hit 11-of-15 in the second half as they led by as many as 13.

"When you go on the road, you've just got to try to get them any way you can," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "Being down 24-11 on the boards at the half, a really big key at halftime was to make sure we got that fixed. ... We just had to have a five-man commitment to the defensive glass. Outrebounding them in the second half has to be the most important stat of the game."

Matt Rafferty actually started in on that second-half mission late in the first half, in what turned out to be arguably the key sequence of the game. Furman trailed 43-40 and were getting outrebounded 23-7. Over the final 56 seconds of the half, Matt Rafferty had four rebounds and hit a pair of shots sandwiched around a Devin Sibley 3-pointer. Rafferty's off-balance putback beat the first-half buzzer to give the Paladins a three-point lead.

"Huge, because we knew we had to get some things corrected," Richey said in reference to taking the lead just before half. "Once we got to halftime, I told the guys 'if you all win the rebounding battle in the second half, you're going to win the game.' To their credit, they went in there and did it."

The Seahawks regained the lead just 25 seconds into the second half, but an Andrew Brown 3-pointer 13 seconds later gave Furman the lead for good. Brown's three was followed by 3-pointers by John Davis and Sibley as the Paladins had a 9-1 run.

Furman put together another run later in the second half to take command. With UNCW's best player, Devontae Cacok, and fellow post player Marcus Bryan each on the bench with four fouls, the Paladins used a 12-5 run to take a 79-66 lead with 8:53 left. The Seahawks cut the lead to three on three separate occasions down the stretch, but never got closer.

"We won't see an environment like that in our league, sans I would say ETSU," Richey said. "The noise got in there and they started going nuts, but I thought our team did a good job of not flinching there in the last couple of minutes."

Sibley finished with 24 points and four assists to lead Furman. Brown added 18 points. Rafferty had 16 points and nine rebounds, while Davis scored 14. Sibley, Brown and Davis combined to connect on 11-of-13 3-pointers.

Cacok had 24 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out for UNCW (2-7), which fell to 37-6 at home over the last four years. Jordon Talley and Jaylen Fornes added 21 and 20 points, respectively, for the Seahawks.

"We wanted to get Andrew going because look, we weren't going to shut down Cacok and we knew that. In game-planning, we looked at how to get something out of it on the other end of the floor and neutralize the matchup," Richey said. "We tried to pull him away from the basket. First play of the game, we ran an action for Andrew and he was just wide open and hits the three-ball right there at the top of the key. I thought him stretching their No. 4 man out was a huge key to the game today."

Furman wraps up the non-conference portion of its schedule at No. 20 Tennessee Wednesday at 9 p.m. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.

"For Devin to be able to go home and play in Knoxville, that's neat. Coach (Rick) Barnes is a heck of a coach who's done a phenomenal job with them. They're very physical and tough," Richey said. "It's going to be a challenge for us to really commit to moving and cutting, trying to neutralize their pressure."

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