|Matt Rafferty had another double-double Saturday with 22 points and 10|
rebounds, but Furman fell at UNCG 89-79. Photo courtesy of Furman
Furman (15-3, 4-2 Southern Conference) hit 6-of-8 3-pointers in the first half and shot 58.3 percent from the floor, but trailed 41-37 at the break. That was primarily due to the seemingly never-ending love affair NCAA officials have developed for offensive fouls. While the Paladins beat UNCG's press quite a few times only to hit the deck on drives to the basket with no whistle, they were called for five offensive charges. That accounted for nearly half of the Paladins' 11 turnovers in the first half.
In the second half, Furman had only itself to blame. While there was one controversial charge call against Alex Hunter late, the Paladins' other nine turnovers came on a collection of sloppy ball handling and poor passes. Allowing UNCG to collect 14 offensive rebounds and shoot 51.6 percent from the floor didn't help.
"We scored 79 points with 21 turnovers, which is a little incredible," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "If we value the ball better, we're probably scoring in the 90s and winning the game.
"But that was secondary to the lack of defensive effort that we showed consistently through the possession. When you're playing good offensive teams with a lot of weapons, you've got to be dialed in and focused the entire possession."
After falling behind by 10 just over five minutes into the second half, Tre Clark got free for a dunk and once again started a Furman rally. The Paladins cut the UNCG lead to two on three different occasions. The last coming on another Clark dunk that made it 61-59 with 9:13 left.
It was the Spartans who were sparked after that Clark dunk however. UNCG drilled four consecutive 3-pointers to push the lead to 73-61. Meanwhile, Furman went more than four minutes without a field goal during that stretch. The Paladins cut the lead to five twice including 81-76 with 1:13 left on a Hunter layup. Jordan Lyons then came up with a steal but turned it back over to UNCG. The Spartans (15-3, 4-1) hit 6-of-6 free throws in the final minute to wrap up the win.
"When you're playing a team that gets in a rhythm and they're making shots, one breakdown (defensively) is all it takes," Richey said. "They do something unique with their point guard crashing the glass. We don't deal with that a whole lot, but it's something we didn't do a really good job dealing with.
"Whether it's the rebounding, the defense, the open 3s or the turnovers, we didn't have the mental focus that you've got to have when you go on the road."
Matt Rafferty had 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists to lead the Paladins. He was 10-of-10 from the foul line as Furman hit 15-of-17 free throws. Lyons had 16 points, while Andrew Brown scored 14 off the bench of for the Paladins.
Isaiah Miller had 25 points and four steals to lead the Spartans. Miller hit the first two of those four straight 3s in the second half that sparked UNCG.
Richey said the early offensive fouls and the game itself will serve as a learning experience for the Paladins. Richey said Furman tried to take too many shots to the rim rather than making an extra pass for a more open look.
"Our pass count today was 205. That's really, really low for us," Richey said. "When they (UNCG) fly around and rotate aggressively like that, if you can get the ball out you can get wide-open looks.
"Nobody likes to lose, but it will continue to reveal some things in this early stretch and there's a long way to go. ... We've got to go get better this week and get ready for another battle in Spartanburg.
Furman next plays at Wofford next Saturday at 7 p.m.
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