Birmingham, Ala. (Furman SID) — Freshman Matt Rafferty drained a three-pointer with 18.4 seconds left to put Furman in front and the Paladins held on in the final seconds to rally past Samford, 67-65, for their fifth consecutive victory on Thursday in Southern Conference men’s basketball action at the Pete Hanna Center.
Following Matt Rose’s free throw with 26 seconds left that put Samford (11-13, 2-9 SoCon) in front 65-63, Stephen Croone penetrated the lane and passed back out to Rafferty who buried a three-pointer from the top of the key to give the Paladins (14-10, 8-3 SoCon) their first lead since the 16:57 mark.
Darius Jone-Gibson missed a driving layup on the next possession and Rafferty grabbed the rebound and was fouled. He connected on his first free throw to give the Paladins a 67-65 lead before Samford rebounded the second and called timeout with six seconds left. Cunningham took the inbounds pass, crossed half court and drove the lane, but saw his fall away shot miss. Rose failed on a tip-in attempt as time expired.
Rafferty finished with a career-high 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while converting on 6-of-8 field goal tries and 6-of-8 free throw attempts. Croone finished with 13 points as the Paladins shot 51.1%, including connecting on 8-of-20 three-pointers and 11-of-15 trips to the foul line.
Down two points at the half, Furman trailed 58-50 with under seven minutes remaining when Croone scored five straight points as part of a 6-0 run to pull the Paladins within two points. Samford twice increased its lead back to four points before Larry Wideman’s triple from the corner cut the Bulldog lead to 62-61. The Bulldogs answered with a layup at the 1:29 mark, but Furman held the home team to a single free throw the rest of the way to escape with the win.
Furman record 18 assists on just 24 baskets and swatted seven shots, including two apiece from Croone and Geoff Beans. The Paladins also scored 12 second chance points on just six offensive boards.
Marcus Johnson led Samford with 16 points, while Jones-Gibson added 15 points. The Bulldogs, who outscored Furman 40-30 in the paint and fashioned a 32-29 rebounding margin, shot 47.5% from the field.
The Paladins return to action on Saturday when they appear on the SoCon Digital Network in a 5 p.m. contest at first place Chattanooga. The game can be heard on the Furman IMG Radio Network at WGOG 101.7FM and FoxSports 1440AM, as well as, on your mobile device through the TuneIn Radio app. Links for the video stream, radio broadcast and live statistics are be posted at FurmanPaladins.com.