Furman led midway through the first half, but a 23-7 run by Wofford going into halftime made it clear: The Paladins weren’t about to stop the Terriers from rolling to their 15th straight win.
Fletcher Magee tallied 23 points, four rebounds and three assists, as Wofford triumphed over Furman 72-64 at a packed-in Timmons Arena in Greenville, South Carolina, in a Southern Conference clash that had a lot of eyeballs on it.
WE’RE. NOT. DONE. pic.twitter.com/IaQSKAGDUN— Wofford Men's Basketball (@WoffordMBB) February 23, 2019
In a rare occurrence, this late season SoCon matchup featured two teams that have hung around the AP Top 25 Poll this season. Furman (22-6; 11-5 SoCon) was briefly ranked in December, and Wofford (24-4; 16-0) missed the cut for the poll last week by two places, receiving the 27th most votes. After Saturday’s display, AP voters might consider plugging Wofford in.
This game also featured two teams capable of busting brackets in about a month, should they advance to the NCAA tournament. Both have made strong cases to be included in the field of 64.
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Furman made it close in the second half, cutting the deficit to three points, but the Terriers embarked on an 11-0 run to put cushion between themselves and the Paladins.
The win puts Wofford within two victories of becoming the first team since Steph Curry’s 2008 Davidson squad to go unbeaten in SoCon play. It’s been more than two months since Wofford last lost a game: on Dec. 19, 2018, they fell by 11 points at Mississippi State. All of Wofford’s four losses have come to teams from major conferences, with the other defeats coming at the hands of Kansas, UNC and Oklahoma.
Here are some more takeaways from Saturday's game:
Rebounds lead to wins for Wofford
Wofford is 22-1 this season when winning the rebounding battle after outmatching Furman 33-30 there on Saturday. Cleaning the glass is a must for the Terriers, and they have the personnel to do it well.
Cam Jackson is the team’s leading rebounder, averaging 7.7 boards per-game this season. He corralled nine on Saturday, in addition to tallying 18 points, four assists and two steals.
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The second big man patrolling the paint for the Terriers is Keve Aluma, a sophomore from Berlin, Maryland. He averages seven rebounds per game and matched that average on Saturday while also notching 11 points, a game-high three blocks and two assists.
KEVE WITH THE ☝️ HAND SLAM! pic.twitter.com/wWDTodlP6j— Wofford Men's Basketball (@WoffordMBB) February 23, 2019
While Aluma doesn’t always stuff the stat sheet, he does subtle things that are important to the Terriers’ success, like setting rock-hard screens and using his size and length to box-out multiple players at once when a rebound is up for grabs. Aluma was also tasked with guarding Furman’s Matt Rafferty, and he gave the Paladins’ big man all he could handle.
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In all, six different Terriers grabbed a rebound Saturday. Wofford is 13th in rebounding margin in all of Division I men's basketball this season with a +7 mark.
Offensive boards were important Saturday as Wofford notched 12 points off second chances. Furman scored just two points that way.
Terriers are deep
The country knows about Magee, who passed former Duke star J.J. Redick earlier this year for second place on the Division I all-time three-pointers list, and most hardcore college basketball fans know about Jackson, Wofford’s reliable big man.
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But Mike Young’s squad has more weapons than just those two players. Against Furman, Young used 10 players, each one seeing action in both halves, and all but two scored points.
Aside from Magee, Jackson and Aluma, the fourth star in this game for Wofford was Nathan Hoover, who connected on a pair of 3-pointers, grabbed four rebounds and had an assist. Storm Murphy added five points, three assists and a steal.
Wofford’s bench had a total of nine points, one steal, two blocks and six rebounds.
HOOOOOOOOVER‼️‼️‼️— Wofford Men's Basketball (@WoffordMBB) February 23, 2019
Timeout Furman. Wofford up 11 👌 pic.twitter.com/qPUEMmgndY
Don’t count out Furman
The loss snaps a six-game winning streak for the Paladins, but it’s still not time to rule them out as a SoCon tournament contender next month.
This is still the same team that was ranked in the AP Top 25 poll earlier this year, the same team that beat Villanova and Loyola Chicago — two Final Four teams from last season — and the same team that beat ETSU and UNCG last week, two teams ranked in KenPom’s Top 100.
Furman has been hanging its hat on defense this season, leading the SoCon in 3-point defense (31.6 percent), blocks (4.3 per-game) and steals (9.1 per-game).
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They’re also armed with Rafferty, a candidate for the conference’s player of the year award. The senior forward ranks in the top five in the SoCon in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, minutes played, field goal percentage and assist-turnover ratio. To simply call him just a versatile and well-rounded player would be a massive understatement. Rafferty finished Saturday’s game with 24 points, seven boards, two assists, two steals and two blocks.
With a stout defense and Rafferty, Furman can beat anyone, any night, anywhere. They’ve already proved that multiple times this season. For whatever reason, Saturday wasn't their night. But a date in March could be.
Mitchell Northam is a graduate of Salisbury University. His work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Orlando Sentinel, SB Nation, FanSided, USA Today and the Delmarva Daily Times. He grew up on Maryland's Eastern Shore and is now based in Durham, N.C.