Sports

Furman Hoops Eyes SoCon Championship and (shh!) March Madness?

By Hayden Cox, Columnist

It has been a-record setting year for the Furman Men’s Basketball team.  Led by junior guard Devin Sibley and senior forward Kris Acox, the Paladins have been setting program records left and right.

The Paladins are on a 10-game winning streak after returning from a road trip featuring wins against SoCon opponents VMI (80-52) and Western Carolina (74-62). With only a showdown against Wofford this Saturday, Feb. 25, , they look to carry their momentum into postseason play. With program records of 10 road wins in the season and a 16-game winning streak at home in Timmons Arena, the Furman men are the team to beat in the Southern Conference.  

The record-setting 16 game home winning streak came to an end on Sat. Feb. 19 against SoCon foe University of North Carolina, Greensboro. The Paladins were at the end of a week that saw them facing three SoCon opponents, and just did not have enough gas left in the tank to beat the Spartans. That Paladins lost 73-52, but are looking to get back on track at home against Wofford on Sat., Feb. 25.

Whispers of “March Madness” are starting to be heard from the Paladin faithful who haven’t seen the Paladins in the NCAA tournament since a first round loss to Tennessee in 1980.

Despite their success this year, the team is staying humble. “We have a lot of trust in each other. We’ve been working hard since preseason and are taking each game one at a time,” said junior guard Daniel Fowler, a consistent starter who leads the team in assists.  

The Paladin’s hard work under fourth year head coach Niko Medved has shown this year, as the team is currently sitting on top of the Southern Conference standings with a 20-8 overall record and a 13-2 record in the conference.

“The biggest difference I’ve noticed this year is our chemistry on and off the court, that, and Jalen Williams being the aux legend.” Fowler added with a smile. Trust and team chemistry have been important for the Paladins this year.

With eight players averaging more than 16 minutes a game and seven of those averaging five or more points a game, Furman’s depth and strength as a unit has been unmatched in the conference., Their defense is no joke, either. Ranked 38th in the country for points allowed and 12th against the three while leading the SoCon in both categories, the Paladin defense has been a major weapon for their 2016-2017 campaign.

Timmons Arena has also been a huge advantage for the team, as the only arena in the conference where the student section reaches all the way to the court. With the help of the football and men’s lacrosse team regularly lining the court along with the rest of the Furman community, Timmons Arena has become the toughest place in the SoCon to get a road win.

But with the SoCon Tournament being held in Asheville, NC from March 3 to March 6, the Paladins will have to rely on their ability to win on the road and their hope that, with the students on spring break and the tournament only an hour away, they will have plenty of purple cheering them on and making their dream of March Madness a reality.

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