GAME NOTES: The Appalachian State Mountaineers begin their quest for the Southern Conference Tournament championship on Saturday as they square off with the Furman Paladins in the quarterfinals at the U.S. Cellular Center.
Furman, the 12-seed, was one of the three underdogs to advance past the first round on Friday as they took down the fifth-seeded Samford Bulldogs, 55-51. The Paladins had lost their 10 previous contests leading into the postseason and managed just three wins in SoCon action all season. Furman has won the SoCon Tournament on six different occasions, but the most recent triumph came back in 1980.
Bobby Austin scored 17 points and Stephen Croone chipped in with 11 for Furman as they upset Samford in the first round. After tying the game late in the opening stanza to force a halftime tie, the Paladins used a 9-2 run to go ahead for good with just over six minutes left in regulation. Furman shot just 39.5 percent from the floor in the contest, but it outscored the Bulldogs, 14-9, at the free-throw line to knock Samford out of the tourney for the third consecutive season. Colin Reddick, who paces the squad with 12.5 points and 6.3 boards per tilt, went only 1-of-5 from the floor to net five points which he accompanied with nine rebounds. The Paladins' upset came after they finished last in the SoCon with an average scoring margin of -9.9 ppg.
Whichever team survives this bout will advance to face the winner of the Georgia Southern/Davidson matchup.
This game marks the 83rd meeting between Furman and Appalachian State with the Paladins holding a 44-38 series edge. The Mountaineers have won seven of the last nine meetings, including a 72-66 decision on Feb. 16, during the regular season in Boone.
The Mountaineers earned a first-round bye after compiling a 10-8 league record this season and winning back-to-back games to close out the year over Samford (70-67) and Chattanooga (86-60) to earn the No. 4 seed. Appalachian State has won at least one SoCon Tournament game in each of the past four years, but it has not played in the championship round since 2010. It has not won the SoCon Tournament since 2000.
The trio of Nathan Healy, Jay Canty and Tevin Baskin will be instrumental in the return to title game for the Mountaineers if they manage to do so. Healy is the leader of the team in many statistical categories including points per game (14.6), rebounds per game (7.9), steals per game (2.0) and blocks per game (1.4). Canty is close behind in both the scoring (14.3) and rebounding (6.2) columns while Baskin adds 10 ppg with 40.9 percent efficiency from 3- point range. The three-headed attack helped ASU finish the regular season ranked third in scoring offense at 71.6 ppg. However, there is plenty of room for improvement on the other end where it surrenders 72.3 ppg.
Winning games on back-to-back days may be too great of a challenge for the Paladins, who were expected to be on their way home today. Appalachian State has too much scoring for Furman to keep up with.
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