|Jackie Carson will be on the sideline at The Well Saturday for the first time|
since winning the SoCon title there in 2000. Photo courtesy of Furman
If the Paladin women win, head coach Jackie Carson won't be able to celebrate quite like she did after their last appearance at that arena. After all, the baskets will still need nets for the men's game.
Saturday will mark the Furman women's first game at the building formerly known as the Bi-Lo Center since March 5, 2000. On that day, Carson (then Jackie Smith) had game-highs in points (13) and rebounds (10) and the Paladins cut down the nets after defeating UNCG, 68-49, in the Southern Conference Tournament championship.
Carson was the lone senior on that team. She's excited to return to the site of the last win of her brilliant collegiate career. that saw her earn SoCon Player of the Year honors after both her junior and senior seasons.
"It's pretty special. ... I actually have the championship game on video. I looked at it the other day just to see how different the building looks," said Carson, who ranks second on Furman's career scoring list with 1,920 points and second in career rebounds (1,057).
"I've tried to tell the girls there's a lot of memories being made in this building. ... Combined with this being the year that the NCAA Regional will be held here, there's just a lot of women's basketball. It's an exciting time to be associated with it."
That 1999-2000 team rebounded from a 1-4 start to go 20-11 with a loss at Tennessee in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. They finished second in the SoCon and handed Chattanooga it's only league loss that regular season. The Paladins won each of their three SoCon tournament games by double-digits.
"I remember everything about that season like it was yesterday. It was a team that was resilient that knew we were supposed to be there," Carson said. "The crazy thing is, as hard as it would've been, we were kind of bummed when Greensboro beat Chattanooga (in the semifinals) because we wanted to beat them in the finals."
|Jackie Carson celebrates Furman's win in the 2000 SoCon Tournament|
championship game at the then Bi-Lo Center. Photo courtesy of Furman
The Bears are a team in serious rebuilding mode with a roster full of freshman and sophomores that entered Timmons Arena with a record of 3-12. However, Mercer looked just like a gritty team that had not lost a SoCon game in three years for much of the night before Furman pulled away for a 62-49 win. That snapped the Bears' 34-game winning streak as their previous last loss came in the 2017 SoCon Tournament championship against Chattanooga.
Le'Jzae Davidson had 15 points and seven rebounds, while Celina Taborn scored 14 to lead Furman Thursday. Tierra Hodges, the SoCon's player of the month for December, recorded her fourth consecutive double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Milica Manojlovic had eight points and a career-high seven assists, while Lindsey Taylor contributed eight points and five rebounds in 14 minutes off the bench also for the Paladins (10-5, 1-0).
"They're still Mercer. A baby shark is still a shark. ... We knew we were going to be in a fight," Carson said. "Nobody on our team had beaten them before Thursday night. It's a huge accomplishment that we don't take lightly.
"We entered that game with a chip on our shoulder after losing to them in the SoCon championship last season. Now we face a Samford team that we ended the season of last year. ... So it's double the target. Wofford was picked second in our league and Samford won there by 26 (on Thursday), so we have to be ready."