Saturday, December 29, 2018

Lights-out shooting ETSU hammers Paladins

Matt Rafferty had 19 points, five assists and three steals in Furman's
79-56 loss at ETSU Saturday. Photo courtesy of Furman
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - It was a pretty uncomplicated basketball story at ETSU Saturday. Seemingly no matter the degree of difficulty, plenty of shots that the Bucs fired up went in, while not very many fell for Furman. ETSU shot 60 percent from the floor, while the Paladins shot 37 percent as the Bucs cruised to a 79-56 win at Freedom Hall.

It was the most lopsided Southern Conference loss for Furman since the infamous black Sunday trip to UNCG on Feb. 22, 2015, when the Paladins fell 84-49. After opening the season with a 12-game winning streak, Furman (12-2, 1-1) has lost consecutive games for the first time since Feb. 7 of last season.

"When people want to pressure us, we've got to stay poised. The last two games offensively, we've got a little bit rushed and forced to do things a little bit faster," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "For us to get four more field goal attempts than they got and only turn the ball over eight times, it just shows you that we weren't doing a good job of making sure we were getting the greatest shots we could get."

Saturday's first half was eerily similar to the headaches Furman suffered the last time out at LSU. The Paladins shot 34.5 percent (10-of-29) from the floor and trailed 34-24 at the break. After missing its first eight 3-pointers, Furman went 2-for-11 from beyond the arc in the first half. Furman, which was outrebounded 20-11 in each half at LSU, was outrebounded 20-12 in the first half at ETSU.

Things didn't get any better for Furman after halftime as ETSU shot 66.7 percent (16-of-24) from the floor in the second half. Clay Mounce's lone made field goal of the game came 28 seconds into the second half and cut the Bucs lead to eight. A pair of free throws by Lucas N'Guessan, a 7-foot transfer from Oklahoma State, 18 seconds later pushed ETSU's lead back to 10 and the Bucs never led by fewer than double figures the rest of the way.

The Paladins were outrebounded 33-23 Saturday, but Richey said it was a different version of what happened at LSU.

"Rebounding is off percentages and they only missed 20 shots all night. We missed 34, so they had 14 more attempts at defensive rebounds," Richey said. "It still comes down to the fact that we didn't make shots. Any time you see shooting percentages that skewed, rebounding is going to be skewed."

Matt Rafferty led Furman with 19 points, five rebounds and three steals. Rafferty made eight of the Paladins' 20 field goals and assisted on five others. Alex Hunter had Furman's other four assists. Jordan Lyons had 12 points, but couldn't get free for his first shot of the game until the 13:10 mark of the first half when he battled his way to the hole for a layup. Noah Gurley was the lone other Paladin with at least five points as he scored 10 off the bench.

After an outstanding 26-point, 10-rebound performance in Furman's 93-50 win over UNCW two games ago, Mounce has just four points and four rebounds over the last two games.

"When we get shots, guys have to step up," Richey said. "Clay and Andrew (Brown) go 2-for-16 collectively, and those are two of our better offensive players. It sounds really cliche, but it's always going to be a make-or-miss game. Our past two games, we just haven't been able to shoot the ball well."

Jeromy Rodriguez, the fourth-leading rebounder in the country led ETSU with 19 points and 11 boards. N'Guessan and Daivien Williamson had 13 points apiece, and Patrick Good scored 12 for the Bucs (11-4, 1-1), who improved to 7-0 at home this season. ETSU had 42 points in the paint and a 13-0 advantage in fast break points.

"We've just got to get back to who we are. ... We've got to make sure we don't lose conviction and lose hope," Richey said. "We've got to get back to work, and make sure that we're confident in our abilities to be able to respond to this. I believe we will, but this is when you worry about your youth a little bit. They've got to make sure they keep their heads up."

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