Thursday, December 21, 2017

Paladins fall short at Tennessee

Furman's Devin Sibley had 22 points and 7 rebounds in the
Paladins' 66-61 loss at Tennessee Wednesday night.
No. 20 Tennessee used a 13-4 run over the final 5:09 of the game to knock off Furman, 66-61, at Thompson-Boling Arena Wednesday night. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Paladins, who wrapped up non-conference play at 9-4 this season.

In a game that featured 14 lead changes, Devin Sibley's layup with 2:02 left provided the game's 13th tie at 61-61. Tennessee's Grant Williams hit the go-ahead jumper with 54 seconds left. After Furman's John Davis was bumped, slipped down and lost the ball, Tennessee's James Daniel hit 1-of-2 free throws with 22 seconds. Daniel added two more free throws with five seconds left to seal the win for the Volunteers (8-2).

"I thought we played really hard for 36 minutes. We didn't come out of the gate after the half strong," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "In the last two minutes, we didn't finish on the defensive end missing a free throw block out that was crucial. Then we had an execution error that was just inexcusable for a team this old.
"Those are going to be things that we can take away from this game. Understanding that in big environments, in front of 13,000 people against a top 20 team in the country, there's a lot of small things that end up being really big things."

Playing in his hometown of Knoxville, Tenn. for the first time since high school, Sibley was tremendous. The senior scored a game-high 22 points, to go along with seven rebounds and two steals. Of Sibley's 22 points, 19 came in the second half. Unfortunately for the Paladins, Sibley missed a few crucial minutes of the second half thanks to a pair of controversial offensive fouls.

Furman trailed 38-30 with 16:28 left when Sibley drove to the basket and drew contact. The official closest to the play signaled a blocking foul before he was overruled and Sibley was tagged with a charge. SEC Network color commentator Dane Bradshaw - a former Tennessee player - said he thought Sibley "did a good job avoiding the charge," and that Tennessee's defender "was still moving a little bit."

Sibley had Furman's first 13 points of the second half and Tennessee's lead was down to 45-39 with 13:10 left when a terrible call sent Sibley to the bench with his fourth foul. Furman freshman Alex Hunter was trapped in the corner on an inbounds play when he turned and fired a pass to Sibley. As Sibley turned around with the catch, he couldn't even dribble before colliding with a Tennessee defender and Sibley was called for another charge.

Despite missing the services of the best player on the court Wednesday, Furman had outscored the Vols 12-7 by the time Sibley returned at the 7:19 mark. Reserves Geoff Beans and Clay Mounce combined for 10 of those points.

"It was good to see Geoff knock down a few. We'd all been waiting on that and I thought he played really hard," Richey said. "The bench had 20 points tonight. For them to have basically 33 percent of our scoring, that's a positive we can take away from this."

After returning, Sibley picked back up where left off with a layup to give the Paladins a 53-52 lead. Another Sibley layup gave Furman's its biggest lead of the second half at 57-53 with 5:12 to play, but the Paladins scored just four points the rest of the way.

"We're definitely not satisfied with the outcome. This program is past moral victories," Richey said. "At the same time, you've got to commend our kids' effort and fight, because they definitely did that.
"I think it gives even more credit to the effort that we could shoot 25 percent from three and still have a chance to win that game. That's the beauty of this team."

A Tennessee team that defended Furman full court all night and that was averaging 23 fouls per game had 13 fouls on Wednesday. The Vols were called for one foul over the final 10:32 of the game. Sibley was 10-of-16 from the floor, including many drives to the basket where he ended up on the floor, but he was just 1-of-2 from the foul line.

Jordan Bowden led Tennessee with 21 points. Williams had 14 points, eight rebounds and a key block of Sibley's layup attempt with 14 seconds left with the Vols up 64-61. Admiral Schofield added 13 points and 12 rebounds for Tennessee, which outrebounded Furman 47-33.

Furman gets a 10-day break over Christmas before opening Southern Conference play Dec. 30 at VMI.

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