What a difference two days makes.
Furman freshman Devin Sibley scored a career-high 25 points and sparked a torrid second half for the Paladins in a 74-62 pasting of The Citadel on Saturday afternoon at McAlister Field House.
Fresh off an incredible 69-66 come-from-behind win over SoCon stalwart Wofford on Thursday, The Citadel (8-10, 3-4 SoCon) led Furman (5-12, 3-4 SoCon) 30-27 at halftime, but fell flat in the second half, shooting just 33 percent from the field, while Furman shot 59 percent as the Paladins sliced the Bulldog defense through timely shooting and a slew of second-chance opportunities.
“I think the guys felt that they weren’t playing up to their capability at halftime,” said Citadel head coach Chuck Driesell, whose team lost for just the second time at home all season. “I give the credit to Furman. Their defense was strong, and they killed us on the boards, which is a sign that they were more aggressive than we were.”
Sibley, the reigning SoCon Freshman of the Week, contributed 20 of his points on 5-of-7 shooting and 8-of-9 at the line in the half, as the Paladins hit 5-of-10 from 3-point range and outscored the Bulldogs 47-32, while snatching 14 offensive rebounds to hold a decisive 34-25 edge on the glass.
“We need to be mentally and physically tougher,” Driesell said. “When you’re in a winning position, people come at you a little harder. We’ll be in that situation again and now know how to handle it a little better.”
Kris Acox registered his third career-double with 10 points and a career-high-tying 13 rebounds (eight offensive), while all-SoCon point guard Stephen Croone dealt with foul trouble to contribute 11 points and five assists with only one turnover.
Ashton Moore played all 40 minutes for the Bulldogs and scored a team-high 16 points, but shot just 5-of-16 from the field (2-of-9 from 3-point range). Quinton Marshall notched his third double-figure game in the last, four adding 14 points and four rebounds, while James Island native CJ Bray played one of his best games of the season off the bench with nine points and 10 rebounds.
Furman stormed out of the dressing room with a 12-4 start to the second half — courtesy of six baskets by six different players without Croone on the floor due to three fouls — to open up a 41-35 lead with 13:59 to play.
Bray’s baby hook and Moore’s 3 combined to inch The Citadel back within 48-45 with 10:16 left, but an 11-4 Furman spurt keyed by nine points from Sibley upped the advantage to 56-47 and effectively put the game out of reach.
“This league is wide-open. It’s whatever team shows up and wants to win the most and puts everything they have on the floor,” Bray said. “It’s a rough loss coming off of a win like Wofford.”
Early on, The Citadel was forced to cobble together its offense as Moore and Wright combined for just five first-half field goal attempts. Marshall asserted himself scoring eight points, but Furman established its interior game with Acox and Kendrec Ferrara off the bench resulting in a 22-17 lead with 8:02 in the half.
Behind a combination of fronting in the post and remaining pace-conscious on offense, the Bulldogs held Furman to just one field goal over an eight-minute stretch and finished the half on a 13-5 run in shooting 56 percent overall for a 30-27 lead.
Still, the second half left much to be desired after such a strong performance against Wofford less than 48 hours earlier.
“It’s a learning lesson. I’m happy that we could beat Wofford, but anybody can beat anybody in any given game,” Driesell said. “We’ve got a lot of games, so hopefully we will learn from this and use it throughout the rest of the season.”
The Citadel begins a lengthy road trip next weekend when it first travels to Johnson City, Tenn., on Thursday to renew acquaintances with East Tennessee State in their first meeting since Jan. 24, 2005. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
This was the 201st all-time meeting in the series which dates back to 1921 in the longest-standing rivalry in the Southern Conference.
At halftime, The Citadel unveiled three new banners in the McAlister Field House rafters honoring the 1959, 1960 and 1961 Southern Conference Championship Track and Field teams.