Furman battles Wofford in SoCon championship game

Mar 9, 2015 - 2:41 PM Asheville, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - The Furman Paladins hope to put the exclamation point on their Cinderella run through the Southern Conference Tournament when they take on the Wofford Terriers in the championship game on Monday night.

The winner receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Furman, the 10th seed in this event, finished in last place in the SoCon this season, winning a mere five of its 18 league bouts. The Paladins had lost eight of their final nine games of the regular season, but have caught fire in the last few days to post three straight wins over seventh-seeded The Citadel (73-56), second-seeded Chattanooga (69-67) and third-seeded Mercer (52-49).

Of the current teams in the league, Furman has won the second-most Southern Conference Tournament titles with six, but the last came way back in 1980. This is the team's first championship game appearance since falling to Davidson in 2002, 62-57.

At the other end of the success spectrum, as least with regard to the 2014-15 season as a whole, is a Wofford squad that has won 27 games, which includes the last seven in a row. The Terriers are the top seed in this event, and they took down eighth-seeded UNC Greensboro (70-52) and fourth-seeded Western Carolina (73-61) to reach this point.

Wofford is the defending SoCon Tournament champion, having defeated Western Carolina in last year's title tilt, 56-53. That was the team's third title since 2010.

These clubs met twice during the regular season with Wofford winning both times -- the first being a 74-49 rout at home, and the latest a 62-60 verdict on the road.

Stephen Croone logged a double-double consisting of 17 points and 14 rebounds to lead Furman to Sunday's semifinal-round win over Mercer. Devin Sibley added 14 points and Kris Acox a double-double of his own with 12 points and 10 boards for the Paladins, who shot just 33.3 percent from the field, missing the mark on 12 of their 15 3-point tries in the process, and they were credited with only four assists in the game. Fortunately, they dialed up the defense in holding the Bears to 28.3 percent field goal efficiency, which included a 6-of-22 showing beyond the arc. Furman also won the battle on the boards, 45-31.

Croone has had a solid season, netting 17.4 ppg while grabbing 4.7 rpg, dishing out 79 assists and logging 50 steals for a team that puts up just 63.6 ppg while yielding 68.1 ppg. Sibley is the only other double-digit scorer on the roster, turning in 10.4 ppg. Acox spearheads the rebounding effort with 7.7 rpg.

Spencer Collins used a 10-of-13 performance at the free-throw line to tally 17 points, leading four players in double figures, as Wofford disposed of Western Carolina in Sunday's semifinal-round matchup. Lee Skinner tacked on 14 points, Karl Cochran 11 and Jaylen Allen 10 for the Terriers, who made good on 55.3 percent of their total shots, which encompassed a 7-of-12 effort out on the perimeter. A 24-9 edge in points at the foul line certainly helped matters, as did the fact that the Catamounts shot just 38.1 percent from the floor overall and only 28.6 percent from 3-point range.

Wofford's strength this season has been its play at the defensive end, as foes are scoring just 59.7 ppg, really struggling to hit their long-range shots (.300). The Terriers themselves are shooting 37.9 percent from distance in producing 67 ppg. They boast just two double-digit scorers in Cochran (14.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.7 apg) and Collins (11.7 ppg), but four others average between 6.2 and 9.8 ppg.

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