Saturday, January 27, 2018

Paladins bounce back with rout of Catamounts

Furman's Devin Sibley had 23 points and 7 rebounds in the Paladins' 100-66
win over Western Carolina Saturday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
Furman followed up arguably its poorest game of the season Wednesday with arguably its finest on Saturday. Devin Sibley scored a game-high 23 points to lead the Paladins to a 100-66 win over Western Carolina at Timmons Arena. The win comes a season after Furman topped the Catamounts 85-37 on their last trip to Greenville.

After a 71-61 loss at UNC Greensboro Wednesday in which Furman had a season-low six assists and 14 turnovers, the Paladins had 21 assists and 7 turnovers Saturday. Every Furman (15-7, 6-3 Southern Conference) starter had at least three assists and five Paladins scored in double figures.

"I thought the guys played with incredible spirit and a few smiles on their faces. We were much more connected out there from the beginning, on both ends of the floor," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "The biggest thing is in the last six games, we haven't had a game over 32 percent from three. We've got really, really good shooters. We had to make sure that just because you shoot poorly in a game it doesn't have to carry over into the next game.
"I thought that first possession of the game really set the tone. The ball movement was incredible."

That first possession saw Furman work the ball in-and-out and side-to-side, and seemingly had three "extra" passes before Daniel Fowler found John Davis, who knocked down an open 3-pointer.

Sibley then began working on an overdue spectacular performance, hitting his first jumper. He then had a steal, drove to the hole and drew a foul for what felt like the first time in ages. Sibley, who's struggled at the foul line in SoCon play, hit both free throws. He went to work on all parts of his stat line, with a blocked shot, a rebound and a 3-pointer that gave Furman a 13-0 lead less than four minutes into the game.

"The pressure from not making some shots from the perimeter has given us a little bit more of a weighted approach to offense. We just haven't played with the sense of freedom that we had out there tonight," Richey said. "We've just worked on it a lot the last two days, just trying to get back to who we are.
"To start the game like that tonight, after some of the adversity that this team's dealt with, I think that's a credit to our leadership. It's a credit to the courage and really just the guts of this team."

Sibley finished 7-of-12 from the floor Saturday, marking the first time he shot over 50 percent from the floor since a 26-point performance against The Citadel on Jan. 4. He also had a team-high seven rebounds and three assists. For the second game in a row, Sibley wasn't called for an offensive foul after being whistled for at least one - and a combined total of 15 - in 10 consecutive games against Div. I opponents.

In pregame warmups for his second game back since dislocating his right little finger, Sibley stayed on the court for a few minutes longer than usual after his teammates went to the locker room.

"That's what I usually do, but it probably did help a little bit today. John (Davis) did too and he was tremendous," Sibley said. "I guess we need to start doing that way more now."

After roaring out of the gate, the Paladins never slowed down the rest of the half, leading by as many as 33 before taking a 58-28 lead into halftime. Furman hit 10-of-20 3-pointers, had 12 assists and one turnover in the first half. Sibley had 16 points and six rebounds before halftime.

In addition to Sibley, Davis (18), Matt Rafferty (13), freshman Clay Mounce (11) and Fowler (10) scored in double figures for the Paladins. Playing without the services of reserve center Jalen Williams (back spasms), Mounce and Geoff Beans (9 points) stepped up at the post position.

An alley-oop dunk by Mounce brought the biggest roar from the home crowd Saturday until Beans - a 3-point specialist throughout his career - threw down a dunk later. The crowd got one more big thrill when walk-on Seve Stavroff scored his first collegiate point to get Furman to 100. It's the fifth time this season the Paladins have reached the century mark. The last time Furman had five 100-point games came in the 1977-78 season.

"I thought (Mounce) was phenomenal today. He really ran the floor, got out in transition and rebounded the ball well," Richey said. "I think it's just something that we can continue to build on because he's going to be a very good player here."

Matt Halvorsen scored 15 points to lead the Catamounts (9-12, 4-4).

Furman begins the second half of the SoCon season Thursday at Mercer. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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