Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Paladins pull away from scrappy Mocs

Furman's Andrew Brown had 16 points and four assists in the Paladins'
73-55 win at Chattanooga Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
Matt Rafferty and Andrew Brown combined for 33 points and made some big shots down the stretch to help Furman pull away for a 73-55 win at Chattanooga Wednesday night. It's the first regular season win at UTC for the Paladins in 10 years. Furman (13-4), which has won nine of its last 10 games, improves to 4-0 in the Southern Conference for the first time since the 1986-87 season.

Facing a depleted UTC squad that had only seven players (five on scholarship) available due to injury, the Paladins raced out to a 27-11 first half lead. With less than three minutes left in the first half, the Mocs (6-11, 0-4) had the lead down to two, then cut it to three on three separate occasions in the second half but Furman never lost the lead.

"We got off to a good start ... then I think we kind of let our guard down and didn't really get our tempo up," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "We got to halftime and knew we had to guard better ... and had to make a few adjustments on ball screen coverage.
"Give our guys credit. We only made seven 3-pointers, but we had a lot of layups. Matt did a great job around the paint and we got some good cuts off the ball screen."

UTC's Nat Dixon hit a pair of free throws to cut the Paladins' lead to 49-46 with 9:47 left before Furman displayed that "spurtability" that it has so often shown lately. John Davis drilled a 3-pointer before Brown hit back-to-back layups to push the lead back to 10.

After a jumper by the Mocs' Joshua Phillips, Rafferty drained a 3-pointer. After a steal by Brown, Rafferty hit another long jumper that was ruled a two to make it 61-48 Paladins with 4:57 left. A Rafferty steal led to a three-point play by Jordan Lyons before Daniel Fowler capped the run with an offensive putback that pushed the lead to 66-48 with 3:42 left.

"We stepped up when the game was on the line and put it out of reach," Richey said. "I've been here seven years and never won there, so we're not taking that for granted. I don't know how many 18-point road wins we've had in the league."

Furman has had a stretch of double-digit to nothing scoring in every SoCon game this season. The Paladins have had runs of 29-0 at VMI, 17-0 vs. Citadel, 11-0 vs. Mercer, 11-0 in the first half Wednesday before the 10-0 run down the stretch that sealed the win.

Rafferty had 17 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals for Furman, while Brown had 16 points and four assists. Devin Sibley was held to nine points, but he had 10 rebounds as the Paladins enjoyed a 34-21 advantage on the boards. Fowler also scored nine.

A Furman team that had forced 54 turnovers in its first three SoCon games combined, forced just three in the opening half Thursday but 11 after halftime. Despite the teams having 14 turnovers apiece, the Paladins had a 26-6 edge in points off turnovers. Furman shot 55.4 percent from the floor.

"We got a lot of live-ball turnovers which allowed us to get out and run," Richey said. "During that run, we were much more simple and made better decisions in our transition."

Dixon scored a game-high 21 points for UTC. Rodney Chatman had 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Phillips scored 12 points also for the Mocs.

The victory sets up a big showdown at Wofford's new Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium Saturday. The Paladins and Terriers (11-5, 2-1), who pulled out a thrilling 63-62 win over Harvard Wednesday, are scheduled to tip-off at 7 p.m.

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