Asheville, N.C. (Furman SID) — No. 7 seed Samford limited Furman to 30% shooting and held off the second-seeded Paladins, 67-63, in the quarterfinal round of the Southern Conference Men’s Basketball Championship on Saturday evening at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, N.C.
With the victory, the Bulldogs (19-14) advanced to face the winner of tonight’s game between No. 3 seed ETSU and No. 6 seed Mercer in Sunday’s 7:30 p.m. semifinal. Furman drops to 21-11 on the season and will wait to see if it qualifies for postseason play.
The Bulldogs, who came out in a zone and elected not to press as the are accustomed to doing, raced out to a 13-point first half lead at 23-10. Furman closed the half on an 17-8 spurt to cut the margin to 31-27 at the break behind 16 opening-period points from junior Devin Sibley.
The Paladins took the lead twice in the early moments of the second half on a three-point basket from Andrew Brown and a trey from Jordan Lyons with 14:30 to go. Samford, however, held the Paladins without a point from the 14:30 mark of the second half until 9:06 left while building a 44-38 lead.
Brown’s triple with just over nine minutes to play ended the drought and trimmed the lead to three points. After Samford answered, Lyons connected from long range to cut the Bulldog lead back to three at 47-44 with 6:57 left, but Furman failed to make another field goal attempt until Daniel Fowler drained a three to pull the Paladins within 63-57 with 49 seconds to play.
After Samford missed a pair of free throws, Sibley’s triple sliced the deficit to 63-60 with 36 seconds left. Samford hit just 1-of-2 free throws after being fouled on the inbounds and Furman drew a foul on its next possession, trailing 64-60. With a chance to cut the lead to two points with 19 seconds to go, Sibley missed both of his shots from the charity stripe. The Paladins got the loose ball rebound, but Brown was stripped of the ball by Samford’s Josh Sharkey with 14 seconds left and the freshman made both free throws. Sibley answered with a trey for Furman before Christen Cunningham connected on 1-of-2 free throws with four seconds remaining to seal the win for Samford.
Cunningham led Samford with 17 points, four boards and eight assists, while forward Wyatt Walker totaled 15 points and 12 rebounds. Alex Thompson added 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulldogs, who outscored Furman in the paint, 18-14.
Sibley poured in 30 points on 10-of-20 shooting, including 4-for-10 from three-point range. Brown tallied 11 points and nine rebounds, while senior Kris Acox pulled down 13 boards to help the Paladins to a 47-39 edge on the glass.
Furman shot just 30.3% from the field and made good on just 12-of-40 three-point attempts. The 40 three-point tries were the second most attempts in school history behind the 42 the Paladins attempted at Chattanooga in 2008.
The Bulldogs shot just 39.6% from the floor, but outscored the Paladins by eight points at the foul line and 15-7 on points off turnovers.