Thursday, February 15, 2018

Defense helps Paladins cruise past UTC

Furman's Devin Sibley had 16 points, 8 rebounds and 2 steals to
lead the Paladins to a 75-56 win over Chattanooga Thursday.
Coming off possibly its finest defensive performance this season Saturday against Wofford, that effort carried over for Furman Thursday. The Paladins held Chattanooga to a 33.3 percent shooting night from the floor, including 10.5 percent (2-of-19) on 3-pointers, in a 75-56 victory at Timmons Arena.

Furman (18-9, 9-5 Southern Conference) forced 12 of the Mocs' 19 turnovers in the first half as the Paladins held a 20-point lead at the break. Furman had just two turnovers and a 22-0 advantage in points off turnovers in the first half. The Paladins finished with a 28-11 edge in points off turnovers and a 17-0 advantage in points off turnovers.

"I thought we did what we needed to do to open up the game right before halftime with that run," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "In the initial parts of the second half, I thought we were sharp enough to make sure the lead stayed where it was. After the 12-minute mark, we got a little sloppy.
"But that's something we can learn from. They always say it's way easier to learn after you win than after you lose."

UTC (9-19, 3-12) never had a lead, but the game was tight early. The Mocs trailed 21-18 with 7:25 left in the first half before the Paladins began to pull away. After a John Davis' jumper, Geoff Beans hit a 3-pointer and Alex Hunter drilled a jumper to give Furman its first double-digit lead at 28-18. The Paladins ended the first half on a 15-3 run to take a 43-23 lead at the break.

After a sold-out crowd helped make for an electric atmosphere Saturday in Furman's 76-52 win over Wofford, it was a stark difference Thursday. That made the Paladins' start all the more important.

"The atmosphere wasn't quite what we saw Saturday. It was a little quiet in there, so we had to make sure that we were bringing the energy ourselves," Richey said. "We were okay there at the start, but it got much better as the half went along. We had eight deflections at the half which was one of our season-highs."

The Paladins enjoyed the big halftime lead despite getting outrebounded 18-10 in the half. While the second half got rough at times, Furman did shore up that category a bit as UTC finished with a 40-31 edge on the boards.

Coming off the bench for the second game in a row, Devin Sibley had 12 points in the second half. His 3-pointer with 15:48 left gave Furman its biggest lead at 53-27.

"I thought Devin was great. He really responded defensively and he got in a rhythm from an aggression standpoint offensively," Richey said. "Devin, John Davis and Daniel (Fowler) all did a good job of being aggressive and persistent off the dribble. We are just much better when we've got an attack mindset on offense - when we move it to attack and make people continue to rotate.
"I thought we had a good offensive flow. I wish it was a little bit more consistent."

Sibley finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and two steals in 21 minutes. Daniel Fowler had 12 points, Jordan Lyons 11 and Matt Rafferty 10 also for the Paladins.

"It's different, but I just try to do what I can to help the team win. That's what my mindset is," Sibley said. "It doesn't matter whether I'm coming off the bench or not."

Joshua Phillips led UTC with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Rodney Chatman, who's been a dynamic scorer for the Mocs of late, had 10 points in 13 first-half minutes before leaving the game for good after a collision with Furman's Jalen Williams on a loose ball. UTC leading scorer Nat Dixon, who's been away from the team for the past two games, came off the bench Thursday and had four points on 1-of-9 shooting.

This was the first of five games over a 12-day stretch to wrap up the regular season for the Paladins. Next up for Furman is a trip to Samford Saturday for a 2 p.m. tip-off.

"Everybody's a leader on the team, not just the seniors," said Fowler, one of four seniors. "We just have to understand that we're going to get teams' best shot. ... So we've got to play to our standard every game."

Note: Furman played without freshman Clay Mounce, who didn't dress out after straining his calf when his bicycle seat broke. Richey said Mounce, who's scored at least seven points in four of his last five games, is day-to-day.

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