By: Sammy Clough, Hayden Cox and Greg Peterson
After a historic season, the Furman men’s basketball team saw it come to an end Sat., March 4, suffering a 67-63 defeat to the Samford Bulldogs in the Southern Conference tournament.
The Paladins got off to a slow start to begin the game. Samford opened the contest with back-to-back three pointers and remained in control for the rest of the half, which saw the Paladins down as much as 13 points.
Junior guard and Southern Conference Player of the Year, Devin Sibley, kept the Paladins in the game, scoring 16 of Furman’s 27 points in the first half with two assists. Furman’s well known depth, however, struggled as only three players – Sibley, junior guard John Davis III and sophomore guard Andrew Brown – found the basket in the first half.
Surprisingly missing from this list are senior forward Kris Acox and junior guard Daniel Fowler, the second and third leading scorers for the Paladins offense, who played 18 minutes and 13 minutes respectively and combined to shoot 0-5 in the first half.
Despite the lackluster shooting, SoCon Coach of the Year Niko Medved kept his team in the game as the Paladins closed the gap quickly. Furman brought the game back to 31-27 as they entered the second half thanks to 16 points by Devin Sibley, a career high.
The Paladins came out strong in the second half, with a quick three-pointer from Sibley and another three-pointer from Brown to give Furman their first lead in the game, making it 35-34, with 17 minutes left in the second half. Both teams traded baskets, but two free throws by Samford’s Christen Cunningham solidified the Bulldogs’ lead for the rest of the game.
With all hope seemingly lost and the Paladins down by 12 with 1:41 remaining, Furman staged a furious comeback that saw the Paladins make it a one possession game, 63-60, with just 36 seconds left in regulation. The Paladins just did not have enough time to make a comeback, and another Cunningham free throw effectively ended the contest with the Bulldogs in the lead with only four seconds left on the clock.
The Paladins have many positives to look back on from this season, including a host of program records and some of the best basketball the Furman faithful have seen in years.
The Paladins will only graduate one starter, Acox, while Sibley, Fowler, Davis III and Brown will be returning for the upcoming season. The Paladins will also bring back a host of young reserves, led by guard Jordan Lyons, a member of the SoCon All-Freshman team. The Paladins finished the season with 21-11 record and went 14-4 in the Southern Conference.