Miller Shoots Furman Past Samford In SoCon Tourney Opener, 61-48
Chattanooga, Tenn. – Senior Jordan Miller poured in a game-high 23 points to lift Furman over Samford, 61-48, in the opening round of the Southern Conference Men's Basketball Championships on Friday evening at the McKenzie Arena in Chattanooga, Tenn.
The Paladins, who improved to 21-9 on the season and reached 21 victories for the first time since the 1979-80 season, advance to face SoCon North Division runner-up Chattanooga in the quarterfinal round of the tournament on Saturday at 7 p.m. Samford finished its season at 12-19.
"I thought we got off to a good start," said Paladin head coach Jeff Jackson. "We tried to work on our intensity, pressuring the ball and rebounding in practice the last few days and I believed that helped carry us through the game tonight."
Furman raced out to a 24-4 first half lead behind 10 points from Miller and a suffocating defensive effort. After Samford trimmed the Paladin lead to 8-4 with 14:44 to play in the opening period, Furman reeled of 16 straight points and held the Bulldogs without a field goal until the 3:53 mark to take control of the game.
The Paladins carried a 32-18 advantage into intermission and led 46-30 with 10:33 to play, but Samford mounted a comeback scoring seven straight points to cut the margin to nine on Drew Windler's layup with 8:09 remaining. Amu Saaka, however, pushed the lead back to 11 before Miller took control by scoring eight of the Paladins' next 11 points to extend Furman's lead to 59-42 on a trey with less than three minutes to play.
The Memphis, Tenn., product connected on 7-of-10 field goal attempts, including 4-of-6 beyond the arc, and made good on 5-of-8 trips to the foul line to pace the Paladins. Brandon Sebirumbi added 10 points while Saaka contributed nine points and a game-high seven rebounds.
Furman shot just 6-of-18 from long range and 11-of-19 at the foul line, but managed to make 45.8% of its field goal attempts. The Paladins fashioned a 34-22 advantage on the glass that led to a 15-4 edge in second chance points while also scoring 24 points off of 16 Bulldog turnovers.
Windler, 6-of-7 at the charity stripe, led Samford with 10 points. The Bulldogs converted on just 13-of-37 field goal tries and 4-of-17 three-point attempts while suffering their seventh straight defeat.
Furman's victory snapped a four-game skid in Southern Conference Tournament play and gave the Paladins their first win in the event since upending UNC Greensboro in the first round of the 2006-07 tournament at the North Charleston Coliseum. The Paladins improved to 8-2 all-time against Samford with their fourth straight win over the Bulldogs.
Paladin fans can follow each Furman game at the SoCon Tournament this weekend with the "Voice of the Paladins" Chuck Hussion on the Furman Sports Network at WGOG-FM 96.3 and WOLT-FM 103.3. Furman basketball can also be heard through Stretch Audio at www.furmanpaladins.com.
"One Spirit. One Team. One Furman."