Saturday, January 19, 2019

Furman falls in heartbreaker at Wofford

Matt Rafferty had 23 points and eight rebounds in Furman's
59-54 loss at Wofford Saturday. Photo courtesy of Furman
SPARTANBURG - In a matchup of Southern Conference heavyweights, Furman and Wofford traded blows all night. In the end, the Terriers' Storm Murphy landed the knockout punch. Murphy's 3-pointer with 17.5 seconds left snapped a tie and lifted Wofford to a 59-54 win before an electric sold-out crowd of 3,400 at Richardson Indoor Stadium.

Neither team managed to shoot 40 percent from the floor in either half, including a 9-for-27 showing (33.3 percent) by Furman in the second half. The Paladins somehow had a chance to win despite going more than six minutes without a field goal during a 10-2 Wofford run after halftime. Each teams' biggest lead was five points. They stayed within striking distance of each other thanks to a phenomenal defensive intensity that lasted all night.

"There was nothing easy tonight on either end. ... I couldn't be more proud of our effort," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "Since I've been here, it's the first one I remember coming over here where we had the lead late with a chance to win it. Not that that's satisfying, but I'm not blind. I watched a group that absolutely laid it out on the line tonight.
"They (Wofford) made the play down the stretch and we didn't, but man it was a heck of a college basketball game. ... Storm made a big shot. You've got to give him his credit."

The game lived up to every bit of the hype as the teams traded the lead 15 times and were tied eight times. Perhaps the biggest key matchup entering Saturday was between the teams' outstanding big men. While Furman's Matt Rafferty got the best of the one-on-one meeting against Wofford's Cameron Jackson, it was Jackson who got the last laugh.

Rafferty scored Furman's last 11 points of the game, including a layup that gave Furman a 54-52 lead with 1:01 left. Wofford called timeout and pulled off a great play coming out of it. Jackson got the ball near the top of the key and appeared he was waiting to hand off to a guard. Instead, Jackson spun and had wide-open lane to the basket for a game-tying dunk with 55 seconds left.

"We knew they were going to try to go to Cam because it was two-point game," Richey said. "We chase Fletcher (Magee) out, obviously, to the corner so it was a good design on their part. Cam gets the catch clean. They go with the handoff and fake it, but then we have no backside help. ... For the most part we had a guy there all night and on that play we didn't. That's connectivity.
"It looks like a great draw-up and it was. You've got to give them credit, but if we're playing connected like we're supposed to be we've got a guy on the mid-line and all of a sudden we can guard it. Good design on their part, but also a tough missed assignment that late in the game on our part."

After Jordan Lyons missed a 3-pointer with 44 seconds left, Jackson got the rebound and that led to Murphy's 3-pointer. On the Paladins' possession, Clay Mounce's 3-pointer bounced off no good. The rebound hit off Wofford's Keve Aluma out of bounds, but Andrew Brown was whistled for a foul with 2.7 seconds left. After Aluma missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw, the ball nicked off Jackson with 0.7 seconds left. Rafferty's long inbounds pass hit out of bounds before Lyons could get to it, turning it back over to Wofford. Jackson scored at the buzzer to push the final margin to five.

The Terriers (15-4) maintain their hold on first place in the SoCon at 7-0. After its third road loss to the anticipated "upper tier" of the league, Furman (15-4) falls to fifth place at 4-3, one game behind Chattanooga, who visits Timmons Arena on Thursday.

"I told the team that this should give us more hope and more determination. We were able to endure a lot and the shots didn't fall like we'd like, but we stayed with our effort," Richey said. "I saw that look of determination and we had that spirit that we're ready to fight.
"You can't always control if you're going to make shots - especially on the road. But you can always control your energy and how hard you're going to fight."

Rafferty finished with 23 points and eight rebounds, while also drawing eight fouls. Lyons and Brown each had 10 for Furman. Fletcher Magee was the lone Terrier with more than seven points as he scored 22.

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