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Furman Rally Falls Short At Mercer, 69-65

Stephen Croone
Stephen Croone

Macon, Ga. -- Furman rallied from a 19-point first half deficit, but Mercer made 2-of-4 free throws in the final 14 seconds to hold off the Paladins, 69-65, in Southern Conference men's basketball action on Thursday night at Hawkins Arena.

With Furman trailing 67-58, Stephen Croone converted on a pair of free throws with 1:09 left to pull Furman within seven points. Mercer missed two free throws on the other end and Geoff Beans drained a three-pointer on an assist from Daniel Fowler to cut the margin to 67-63.

Mercer missed two more free throws on its next possession and Croone scored on a driving layin to make it 67-65 with 43 seconds to play. Phillip Leonard made 1-of-2 free throws for the Bears with 14 seconds remaining and Ethan Stair converted on 1-of-2 trips to the charity stripe seconds later to push the margin to 69-65 and seal the verdict after Mercer rebounded Croone's missed layup.

The Bears connected on 6-of-11 first half treys and scored 16 points off eight Furman turnovers in the period to build a 19-point lead before carrying a 39-23 advantage into halftime.

Croone drained three consecutive triples to help Furman begin the second half on a 9-0 run. Mercer upped its lead to 12 again, but Furman, 50% from the floor and 7-of-15 from three-point range in the second half, rallied again as Daniel Fowler drained a three and Devin Sibley scored in the paint to cut the lead to seven. The deficit never reached double digits the rest of the way.

Croone finished with 27 points on 9-of-16 shooting, including a 5-of-9 performance from beyond the arc, while adding six rebounds and five assists. Sibley contributed 12 points and Fowler accounted for six points, seven boards and four assists.

The Paladins shot 45.3% from the floor and made 11-of-27 three-point tries, but converted on only 6-of-12 free throw attempts. Furman outscored the Bears 26-20 in the paint.

Stephon Jelks and Jestin Lewis paced Mercer with 13 points apiece, while Leonard and Stair added 11 and 10 points, respectively.

The Bears (13-4, 3-1 SoCon) shot 46.2% and connected on 8-of-17 threes and 13-of-20 free throws. Mercer finished with a 26-5 edge in points off turnovers after forcing 15 Furman miscues.

Furman continues its road trip on Saturday with a 1 p.m. tip-off versus The Citadel at McAlister Fieldhouse in Charleston, S.C. The game will be streamed live on ESPN3 and can be heard on the on the Furman IMG Radio Network at WGOG 101.7FM and FoxSports 1440AM, as well as, on your mobile device through the TuneIn Radio app. Links for the video stream, radio broadcast and live statistics are posted at FurmanPaladins.com.

Jordan Caskey, Furman Sports Information