|Marcus Foster had his third double-double in the last four games Saturday,
but Furman lost at Wofford, 77-67. Photo courtesy of Furman
SPARTANBURG - When your first made field goal of the night doesn't count, that's probably not a good sign. Furman had no idea what a bad sign that would turn out to be at Wofford Saturday night. One minute into the game, Marcus Foster's pretty left-handed running jumper was erased after video review determined that he didn't release it before the shot clock expired.
As it turns out, not making two-pointers was a theme for the Paladins before a sold-out crowd at Richardson Indoor Stadium. On a night when Furman made 20 free throws and 11 three-pointers, it was just 7-of-23 (30.4 percent) on shots inside the arc. It was a different story for the Terriers, who dominated inside and led from start to finish to record a 77-67 win. Wofford had a 46-14 advantage on points in the paint to snap the Paladins' five-game winning streak.
"I thought it was energy more than anything. They had the right energy and played harder than us. They had a lot of people here. The place was juiced and they fed off that juice," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "I didn't expect us to come out like we did on our heels. I thought we had a good practice (Friday) and we were ready to roll, but you could feel that difference in energy early."
Defense sparked the Paladins' win streak it carried into Spartanburg, especially in big wins over Western Carolina and Samford their last two times out. That continued in the first half Saturday, but outside of Foster hitting free throws, Furman's offense was non-existent early on. The Paladins' lone field goal over the first eight minutes of the game was an Alex Williams putback at the 16:14 mark. Furman trailed 17-6 before it's next field goal came on a three-pointer by Williams with 11:50 left.
As bad as things were going for the Paladins in the opening half, Williams' driving layup with 1:36 left cut the Terriers' lead to 31-29. But that second made two-pointer for Furman turned out to be its final points of the half. Over the final 81 seconds, Wofford had two layups, a dunk and two free throws while Furman had two turnovers, a foul and a missed layup as it was a 39-29 game at the break. It marked the first time since its last loss that Furman didn't score on its final possession of the first half. In a quirky stat, the Paladins fell to 2-6 this season when not scoring in that situation.
"The start of the game and the finish of the first half, that's what got us," Richey said. "And they killed us in the paint. They really did a good job of driving it, kicking it and moving it. They had us rotating all night."
Furman played much harder in the second half, but it's pressing defense led to some easy buckets for Wofford which shot 51.9 percent from the floor after halftime. The Terriers expanded their lead to 15 by the first media timeout of the second half. The Paladins cut it to 52-47 with 11:01 left on Foster's layup, but Wofford big man Kyler Filewich answered with a hook shot on the other end. After a missed layup by Foster, Jeremy Lorenz drilled a three-pointer and Terriers led by double figures for most of the rest of the game.
The Paladins (11-10, 5-3) had no answers for Filewich. In 25:33 on the court, the Southern Illinois transfer hit 8-of-9 shots and finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, a steal and no turnovers. Corey Tripp led Wofford (12-9, 5-3) with 20 points and five assists.
Foster had his third double-double in four games since returning from injury as he finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds for Furman. Williams and J.P. Pegues scored 15 points apiece, while PJay Smith had 11. For the game, Furman shot 31 percent (18-of-58) with just 10 assists. For comparison's sake, Chattanooga made 23-of-30 two-pointers in a 79-65 win on Wofford's home floor three days earlier.
"We saw this at Chattanooga and we saw it tonight. We've got to figure it out - do we want to play connected or do we not want to play connected. Connection is depending on one another and working with one another," Richey said. "Connection is using five people to create a really good shot, not one person trying to create a shot. Then you let that energy get into your defense and you don't guard as well.
"One of the big elevations of our defense here lately was that we've been moving it on offense to a point where the whole game just comes easier and more enjoyable. That connection bleeds into our defense. Tonight we weren't connected on either end and I've got to be better there."
The Paladins will look to get back on track when they play at The Citadel at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Furman should have plenty of motivation to come out focused to try to avoid back-to-back losses at in-state rivals. The Bulldogs were the last team to defeat the Paladins last season before Furman's run to round two of the NCAA Tournament.
"You've got to be ready to go. ... If you think you're just going to go into somebody's own environment and win without playing your best game, you're going to have something bad coming for you," Richey said. "That's what we've got to learn and grow up a little bit. This team has responded and I've got full confidence that they'll continue to respond."