Friday, February 23, 2018

Brown powers Paladins to fifth consecutive win

Andrew Brown scored a career-high 22 points to lead Furman to a
78-55 win at Western Carolina Friday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
CULLOWHEE, N.C. - Furman's Andrew Brown scored 16 of his career-high 22 points in the first half and the Paladins went on to their fifth straight win with a 78-55 victory at Western Carolina Friday night. All five of the wins have been by at least 15 points.

The win keeps Furman (21-9) in third place in the Southern Conference standings with one game left. The Paladins could've locked up the No. 3 seed in the SoCon Tournament on Friday, but Wofford won at ETSU to remain a game back of Furman.

For the Paladins to get the No. 3 seed, they will need a win at ETSU in the regular season finale Sunday at 2 p.m. or a Wofford home loss to Mercer. If neither of those results happen, Furman would finished tied with Wofford for third. Due to Wofford's win at ETSU, the Paladins would lose that tiebreaker and be the No. 4 seed and face Mercer next Saturday in Asheville.

A No. 3 seed would likely see the Paladins face Western Carolina. While Furman swept both teams this season, Mercer has won seven straight. There will be plenty on the line for both teams Sunday in Johnson City, Tenn. as ETSU has fallen into a first-place tie with UNCG.

"Every game from this point forward is one game at a time. Don't get caught up in what this means and what that means, just go play the best game you can possibly play," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "This stuff is all going to shake itself out. ... We want to finish right. It's going to be a hostile environment up there and we've got to make sure that we're focused and ready to guard."

Brown started off the scoring with a 3-pointer 17 seconds in setting the tone for the rest of the half. Brown's jumper capped a 12-2 run to start the game. His 3-pointer with 1:10 left in the first half staked the Paladins to a 44-26 lead.

Brown began the second half with back-to-back 3-pointers to push Furman's lead to 50-28. Despite the Paladins not committing a turnover until the 6:02 mark of the first half, they finished with 14. They seemingly always had an answer though and the Catamounts (12-18, 7-10) never got within 16 after halftime.

"Anytime you're on the road, you want to get off to the best start you can. Tonight, that was how we like to play. I thought the ball movement early was really good," Richey said. "We had some uncharacteristic turnovers, including two ridiculous ones on the baseline. ... But every time they tried to make a run, I thought we were able to throw a punch."

In Furman's win at Mercer on Feb. 1, Brown took a hit that sidelined him for the Paladins next game at The Citadel. There was rumblings that it might be a season-ending injury, but Brown came back and started the next game versus UNCG on Feb. 7 and scored 15 points. Brown has led Furman in scoring in each of the past three games. He's hit 13-of-20 3-pointers and scored 57 points over that span.

"I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to finish the season, which gave me a whole new perspective on being out there," Brown said. "It's kind of given me a new sense of enjoyment for basketball. It's nice to be able to just go out there and do what I love to do.
"It's easy to play with such unselfish guys. They always find you when you need it."

Furman shot 54.4 percent from the floor Friday, including 40.7 percent (11-of-27) on 3-pointers. Brown was 6-of-9 from beyond the arc. The Paladins held Western Carolina to 33.9 percent shooting.

Devin Sibley had 11 points and six rebounds for Furman, while Daniel Fowler had nine points and and six assists. Clay Mounce added six points and seven rebounds in 15 minutes off the bench. Eleven different Paladins scored.

"I'm really happy with Andrew's performance. He's been playing really, really well lately," Richey said. "We wanted to call more for him tonight and his teammates did a good job of finding him."

Mike Amius and Marc Gosselin were the only two Catamounts in double figures with 13 and 11 points, respectively.

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