By: Hayden Cox, Columnist
Despite missing out on an NCAA tournament bid, the Furman men’s basketball team received their second consecutive invite to the College Insider Tournament (CIT) Thurs., March 15 and faced off against USC Upstate. This was the first ever meeting between the Paladins and the Spartans, and gave senior forward Kris Acox and senior guard T.K. Hayes another chance to suit up in Furman purple.
The Paladins came out strong with junior guard Devin Sibley opening up the game with a three-pointer. The Paladins started hot and did not look back. With Acox tallying six rebounds in the first five minutes along with junior guard Geoff Beans leading the team with 10 points in the first half, the Paladins hit the locker room at halftime with a 37-20 lead.
At the start of the second half, junior guard John Davis III put his mark on the game with back-to-back three-pointers. Soon after, Acox snatched his 10th rebound of the game and junior guard Daniel Fowler sunk a three to give Furman a 16-point lead with 13 minutes remaining in the second half.
The G. B. Hodge Center fell very quiet from the fans in green during the second half, and the Paladin faithful who made the short drive to the Upstate campus were not disappointed. The Paladins ran deep as Davis, Sibley and Beans were all at double digits in the scoring column with 11:54 left in the first half. Along with team stats of 16 assists, doubling USC Upstate’s assist total, and 34 rebounds in comparison to Upstate’s 24, the Paladins made it clear that they have come back strong and hungry from their second-round loss to Samford in the Southern Conference tournament.
Halfway through the half, Davis lobbed up an alley-oop to Acox, giving the forward his ninth double-double of the season. With four minutes to go, Beans dropped his third 3-pointer to give the Paladins a 22-point lead.
After two more points from redshirt freshman forward, Jaylin Marshall following a foul inside, Coach Medved put in senior T.K. Hayes, who quickly put up two points from a mid-range jumper and sophomore guard Brady Schuck, who ended the game with the ball in his hands after a solid rebound.
The Paladins closed out the game with a 22-point lead, bopping the Spartans 79-57 on their home court and giving the Paladins postseason victories in consecutive seasons for the first time in program history.
Since the Paladins have one of the top three RPIs among the teams remaining in the 26-team CIT field, they will receive a second round bye and will find out their quarterfinal opponent later this week.
The Paladins will head to Campbell University on Sat., March 24 and tip-off is set for 2:00 p.m. The winner of this game will advance to the CIT semifinal.