GAME NOTES: The Furman Paladins hit the road to take on the Georgia Southern Eagles in a Southern Conference battle at Hanner Fieldhouse on Thursday night.
Furman is coming off a last-minute loss to Samford on Saturday, 57-55. That was the fourth setback in a row for the Paladins, who have now lost five of their last six outings overall.
Georgia Southern also lost a close one last Saturday, falling to Western Carolina in a 68-67 final. The Eagles can't seem to get any momentum going and have been alternating wins and losses since early December.
The all-time series between these two teams is knotted at 24-24. They split a pair of meeting last year, with each winning at home. The Paladins have won six of the last nine matchups overall.
In their last contest, Furman shot 52 percent from the floor in the first half and had a 32-29 lead over Samford at the break. Neither team shot well in the second half, as the Bulldogs made just 32 percent of their field goal tries and the Paladins just 30.4 percent. Furman took a three-point lead with 43 seconds left on a Stephen Croone 3-pointer, but after Samford made it a one- point game on a pair of Tyler Hood free throws, it captured the lead for good on Raijon Kelly's 3-point play with 12 seconds remaining. A Croone layup was blocked at the other end as the Bulldogs held on. Kendrec Ferrara paced the Paladins with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting, while Croone added 11 points and four assists in the losing effort.
Croone is the SoCon's second-leading scorer at 19.6 ppg, but he is turning the ball over almost four times per game (3.7), although he did not have a miscue in the loss to Samford. Larry Wideman and William Gates Jr. are contributing 10.9 and 9.9 ppg, respectively. Ferrara (9.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg) is the only other player averaging more than six ppg for Furman.
Jelani Hewitt dropped in a game-high 23 points for Georgia Southern in the loss to Western Carolina. Tre Bussey added 14 points on 5-of-12 shooting from the floor, while Brian Holmes and Angel Matias netted 11 points apiece. Matias also pulled down eight boards in the losing effort. Although they trailed 29-27 at the break, the Catamounts took control in the second period by connecting on 14-of-31 shots from the field, and also 10-of-15 tries at the free-throw line.
Hewitt and Bussey have been the top scoring options for the Eagles this season. Hewitt leads the squad with 20.8 ppg, good for tops in the SoCon, to go along with 4.9 rpg, while Bussey is averaging 18.2 ppg. They have combined to knock down 81 of GSU's 132 3-pointers on the season.
In this clash of the league's top two scorers, the Paladins are desperate for a win and would love to get their first victory of the new year, but the Eagles possess enough other weapons that they should be able to continue to keep Furman winless in 2014
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