Asheville, N.C. – Senior Bobby Austin scored a game-high 17 points, including a pair of free throws with 10.8 seconds remaining, to lift 12th-seeded Furman to a 55-51 victory over No. 5 seed Samford in the opening round of the Southern Conference Men's Basketball Championships on Friday afternoon at the U.S. Cellular Center.
The Paladins (7-23), who halted a 10-game losing streak by downing Samford in the opening round of the league tournament for the third consecutive year, advance to face No. 4 seed Appalachian State on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in quarterfinal round action.
The Bulldogs led or the game was tied well into the second half before Furman took its first lead, 40-39, on a Kendrec Ferrara three-point play with 10:29 to play. Raijon Kelly answered with a trey a little more than a minute later to retake the lead 42-40 at 9:03.
The Paladins went on a 9-2 run, capped by Stephen Croone's three-pointer at 6:09, to give his squad its largest lead of five, 49-44. The Bulldogs cut the lead to one twice, including with 1:16 to play on two Williams free throws.
With 27 ticks to go and Samford having a chance to take the lead, Croone came up with a loose ball in the paint and made 1-of-2 free throws to up the Furman lead to 53-51. Kelly drove to the basket on the ensuing possession but his shot was off. Austin grabbed the rebound and made both his free tosses to cement the win with 10.8 seconds to go.
Austin hit 5-of-10 shots and all five of his free throw attempts to lead the Furman offense while Croone added 11 points. Charlie Reddick, playing for the first time since February 11, contributed eight points and 10 boards.
Furman managed a 34-24 advantage on the boards led by Charlie Reddick with 10 and his twin brother Colin Reddick with nine. The Paladins shot 73.7% (14-19) from the line for the game, including 75% (12-16) in the second half. The two teams combined for just 13 turnovers with five for Samford and eight for Furman.
Freshman Tim Williams led Samford with 15 points and six rebounds. Tyler Hood and Clide Geffrard Jr. added 13 and 10 points, respectively, in the loss.
Samford led throughout the first half and opened up a 16-10 lead with an 8-2 run before a three-point play from Bryant Irwin and three-pointer from Austin down the stretch helped the Paladins pull even at intermission.
Furman shot just 39.5% from the floor and 38.9% from behind the arc marking the first time this season that the Paladins managed a victory when shooting 40% or less from long range. The Bulldogs shot 40% from the field, but Samford connected on just 6-of-21 three-point attempts.
Furman fans can follow all the action of Saturday's quarterfinal round encounter versus Appalachian State with play-by-play voice Dan Scott on WOLT-FM 103.3, WGOG-FM 96.3 and through Stretch Audio at www.FurmanPaladins.com. Each tournament game will also be streamed live on ESPN3 with Monday's championship tilt set to air live on ESPN2 at 7 p.m.
The winner of Saturday's game advances to face either top-seed Davidson or Georgia Southern in Sunday's semifinal round.