Friday, January 19, 2018

Paladins drop a heartbreaker to ETSU

John Davis had 12 points, including 10 in a 13-2 second-half
run, in Furman's 62-61 loss to ETSU Thursday.
Desonta Bradford made a beautiful up-and-under move before hitting a floater with 4.5 seconds left to lift East Tennessee State to a 62-61 win over Furman at Timmons Arena Thursday night. The Buccaneers spent no time celebrating, pressuring the Paladins up the court before Daniel Fowler's hurried 3-pointer bounced away no good.

It's a huge road win in the Southern Conference race for the Bucs (15-4, 6-0), who are the lone team without a conference loss. As his team began to leave the court, ETSU coach Steve Forbes called them back out to salute the big crowd of fans behind the Bucs bench who made the trek to Greenville. It's just the second loss in the last 21 SoCon home games for Furman (13-6, 4-2).

"Obviously, a tough ending there, but that's sports," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "The guys battled back hard and I thought they showed a lot of courage and heart.
"(Bradford) made the shot. He's a really good player. We had Daniel (Fowler) on him and we'd done a good job for the most part. It was a nice pivot and nice play on his part."

A 3-pointer by ETSU's 7-foot senior center Peter Jurkin 10 seconds into the game sort of set a tone for the night. It was the only shot Jurkin took as foul trouble limited him to nine minutes, but ETSU made 42.9 percent (9-of-21) of its 3-pointers for the game.

It's the second game in a row that Furman's opponent has excelled from the perimeter. Going into the Wofford game Saturday, the Paladins led the SoCon in 3-point defense at 29.6 percent before the Terriers made 45.8 percent of their 3-pointers.

"They caught us a lot - especially in the first half - with our hands down," Richey said. "We were so worried about their penetrators - and they do have four guys that can just deck it - a lot of times the tendency is to give them that gap. But you can't give them that gap with dead hands.
"It felt like they hit three or four late in the shot clock and those are just heartbreakers."

The teams traded 3-pointers early on. Fowler's 3-pointer with 10:18 left in the first half gave Furman a 20-16 before the Paladins went ice cold. Furman didn't hit another shot from the floor until Fowler's jumper with 58 seconds left in the half. By then ETSU had built an 11-point lead. Fowler added a pair of free throws with 24 seconds left, cutting the Bucs lead to 34-27 at the half.

That lead grew to 12 early in the second half and was 11 with 12 minutes left when John Davis hit a back-to-back 3-pointers to begin a Furman comeback. Davis made a pair of free throws and a jumper to cap the 13-2 run as the Paladins tied the game 53-53 with 7:46 left.

The lead changed six times and there were two ties over the final 5:43. Matt Rafferty's layup gave Furman a 59-58 lead with 2:55 left. The Paladins' next four possessions resulted in two missed shots and two turnovers however and ETSU took a 60-59 lead on Bo Hodges' layup with 1:03 left.

After Hodges missed a 3-pointer, Rafferty got the long rebound. The former high school quarterback immediately fired a bomb to a streaking Andrew Brown who had his layup blocked, but it happened after the ball hit the glass. That resulted in goaltending giving Furman a 61-60 lead with 20 seconds left.

After Bradford's game-winning shot, John Davis dribbled under pressure by ETSU before finding Fowler. Fowler had no time to set and fired up a prayer that bounced off the backboard no good.

"When I caught I looked up and there was 0.6 (seconds) on the clock, so I kind of had to heave it," Fowler said. "You've got to take them one game at a time and in this league, one day at a time. We've got to come to practice tomorrow even more focused than we were for this game and detail oriented."

Richey chose to not call a timeout because he didn't feel ETSU's 1-3-1 defense would allow the Paladins to get the ball up the court and a shot off in 4.5 seconds.

"We wanted to quick out it, but we wanted to get our floor spaced much quicker," Richey said. "We failed to do that and didn't really get a good look there."

Furman made 5-of-10 from beyond the arc to start the game, but those two by Davis 39 seconds apart in the second half were sandwiched in between 14 missed 3-pointers for the rest of the game. After committing 17 fouls in the game, including nine in the second half, ETSU magically had zero over the final 8:25. Meanwhile, the Paladins were whistled for seven fouls over the first 33 minutes of game time before being called for six over the final 6:51.

That last ETSU foul with 8:25 left also resulted in Devin Sibley being knocked out of the game with an injury to his right little finger. He came back out of the locker room with 1:35 left, but didn't return to the game as his finger was heavily taped up.

"We'll found out more tomorrow," Richey said. "There's nothing specific or concrete at this point."

Rafferty had 13 points and eight rebounds to lead Furman, while Fowler added 12 points and eight rebounds. Davis also scored 12 points, while Sibley tallied 11.

Bradford and Jalan McCloud had 12 points apiece for ETSU, while David Burrell scored 11. McCloud also had six assists.

There's little time to fret over a rare home loss for Furman. The Paladins host Samford Saturday at approximately 4:30 p.m.

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