|Furman's Daniel Fowler (35), Devin Sibley (12), Geoff Beans (3) and|
John Davis III (1) were honored in Senior Night festivities prior to the
Paladins' 76-54 win over VMI Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
Prior to their final home game, the careers of seniors Geoff Beans, John Davis III, Daniel Fowler and Devin Sibley were celebrated. After honoring that group that's been the nucleus of taking Furman's basketball program from rock bottom into a winner, the Paladins cruised to a 76-54 win over VMI.
"People just don't get what these four kids signed up for. They don't get what the program was like when these four guys made the decision to come here," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "Not only did they decide to come with the vision that Coach (Niko) Medved and staff laid out, but they did it. And it had not been done in a very long time. And they did it when nobody thought they could do it.
"The only group of people who thought they could do it was this group. Now, we're going to hear about how we didn't play great after a 22-point win. That's what these guys have created. Twenty-two point wins around here, five or six years ago when I first got here before Coach Medved? We didn't have a whole lot of those. ... That was a great way for those four to go out tonight."
The win gave Furman back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in 38 years. It improved Furman's home record in SoCon play over the last three years to 24-3.
The big night for the Paladins got a little bigger soon afterwards when UNCG completed a 10-point win at Wofford. That leaves Furman (20-9) alone in third place in the Southern Conference at 11-5 with two games left, while Wofford slips to fourth at 10-6. The Paladins have clinched at least the No. 4 seed for the SoCon Tournament.
With the buzz of the pregame festivities still in the air, the Paladins looked to be overly trying early on Tuesday. Furman trailed 16-7 with 12:35 left in the first half before going on a 27-3 run over the next 10 minutes to go up 34-19. It was eerily similar to the team's first meeting in VMI this year when the Paladins fell behind 15-6 before going on a 29-0 run.
After the Keydets (8-19, 3-13) cut the lead to 34-26 at the half, Furman opened the second half with a 20-5 run and never looked back.
"I think it was one of those things where you just want it to go so well so bad, you just come out a little bit tense and you've got to settle down," Richey said. "I wasn't surprised when they were up 7-5 and 10-5. I did start to get a little worried when it was 16-7. ... But we settled in and started guarding and the intensity and speed of our defense started really picked up, which always carries into our offense.
"I didn't like how we finished the first half, but we made a heck of run right out of the gate out of halftime."
The lopsided win allowed Richey to sub out the seniors individually, so each could get one last ovation from the crowd and one last hug from the coaches. The last senior left was Beans, who hadn't yet scratched in the scoring column. Richey made no bones about one of the Paladins' final offensive play calls when he yelled to his team to "get Geoff a shot." That possession ended when Beans rattled home a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 51 seconds left as Richey pumped his fist.
"I was hoping that sovereignty would play in a little bit and that thing would fall in, and sure enough it did," Richey said. "He needed to exit with a three on his last night in Timmons Arena."
While it was the seniors' night, others reminded that the future remains bright. Junior Andrew Brown led Furman with 15 points and three steals, while sophomore Jordan Lyons scored 12 off the bench. Fowler had 12 points, while Sibley had 10 points and nine rebounds. Matt Rafferty added seven points and five assists. Sibley moved into seventh place on Furman's all-time scoring list with 1,780 career points.
Despite having 14 turnovers to VMI's 13, the Paladins had a 25-4 advantage in points off turnovers. Furman had a 34-16 edge on points in the paint and outscored the Keydets 20-0 on fast break points.
The lone Keydet in double figures was Jordan Ratliffe, who scored 10 off the bench. VMI leading scorer Bubba Parham, who was averaging 15.2 points per game, was held to three points on 1-of-10 shooting. In every other SoCon game this season, Parham has scored at least 11 points.
"Bubba's a very good player. You just try to prevent him from going off and contain everyone else," Fowler said. "When we picked up our defensive intensity, started creating turnovers and getting stops ... that's when the game started to change."
Furman closes out the regular season with games at Western Carolina Friday at 7 p.m. and at ETSU Sunday at 2 p.m.
"The last couple of years, we've struggled in this last stretch of games leading into the (SoCon) tournament," Brown said. "That's definitely affected us in the tournament. This year, we're trying to stay hot, play together, keep getting better every day and just focus on the next game."
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