Furman (3-9, 0-1 SoCon) at College of Charleston (9-4, 1-0 SoCon)
Jan. 5, 2012, 5 p.m.
Charleston, S.C., T.D. Arena (5,000)
Preview: Southern Conference play gets underway in earnest on Saturday afternoon, with struggling Furman heading to the College of Charleston.
The Paladins enter the contest having dropped four straight and seven of its last eight, while the College of Charleston comes into Saturday afternoon's clash having won four straight and playing some of its best basketball of the season.
The Paladins and Cougars will be facing off on the hardwood for the 80th time, with the Paladins holding the narrow 41-38 advantage in the all-time series. The Paladins and Cougars split the season series, with Furman claiming a 69-63 win over the College of Charleston, while the Cougars downed the Paladins, 66-43, in Greenville.
Furman's win at TD Arena was their first in Charleston since 1952, and the win by the Paladins over their in-state rival also snapped a nine-game losing skid to the Cougars.
Furman is coming off a 72-53 loss at SMU in its most recent outing back on Dec. 28, while the Cougars got an 85-75 win at Marist on New Year's Eve.
The Paladins come into the contest having struggled offensively this season, ranking 10th out of 12 teams in the league in scoring, averaging just 60.1 PPG, and ranked 11th in the league in field goal percentage by connecting on just 39.0-percent from the field through the first 12 games.
The College of Charleston on the other hand, enters Saturday evening's home SoCon clash, ranking eighth in the league in scoring offense (62.4 PPG), while ranking top in the league in team field goal percentage, connecting on 44.8-percent of its shots from the field this season.
The Paladins enter Saturday evening's matchup with the Cougars, boasting just one player averaging in double figures in scoring, with forward Colin Reddick (10.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG) enjoying his best season as a Paladin. The 6'-9", 240-pound senior from Powder Springs, GA., has posted double figure scoring efforts in eight out of 12 games this season.
Reddick scored a season-high 17 points in a win over Brevard earlier this season, while scoring 15 points in Furman's only other Southern Conference game, a 79-65 home loss to Western Carolina back on Nov. 28. Reddick is coming off a 12-point outing in the Paladins' 72-53 road loss at SMU last Saturday night.
He also enters the contest being a factor on the defensive end of the floor this season, having blocked a team-high 13 shots this season. His 13 swats this season give him 88-career blocks, which ranks Reddick seventh in school history. Reddick's 1.1 blocks-per-game average ranks him seventh among the league leaders heading into the clash with the Cougars.
Joining Reddick in the Paladin starting five on Saturday night will be both Bryant Irwin (8.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG) and Kendrec Ferrara (6.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG).
Irwin, a 6'-7" senior, is coming off one of his best outings of the season, as he posted 15 points on five treys in the loss at SMU the last time out. Irwin has been a prolific, streaky, outside threat for the Paladins this season, having posted 12 triples this season, and is one of four Paladins with double-digit three-pointers this season.
His 15 point performance in the road loss to the Mustangs last Saturday night marked the fourth double-digit effort of the season for the senior, matching his previous season-high in points with 15, which he also accomplished in a loss at Mercer back in late November.
Irwin was also one of three Paladins in double figures in the win at Charleston last season, posting 14 points in the road win.
Ferrara rounds out the front court starters for the Paladins heading into Saturday night's contest, and he has had an impressive freshman season for Furman. Ferrara has started the last five games for the Paladins, and he has seen action in all 12 games for the Paladins this season.
Ferrara has four double-figure scoring performances this season, including a season and career-high 13 points in the win over Presbyterian. Ferrara's four double-figures scoring efforts came consecutively. He is also second on the team in field goal percentage this season, connecting on 51.4% (36-of-70) from the field this season.
Furman's backcourt has been hampered by injuries this season, with last year's starting point guard Jordan Lloyd out for an indefinite amount of time with a knee injury, while sophomore reserve point guard David Brown (2.4 PPG, 0.7 APG) has struggled with an ongoing back injury this season.
That means the point guard duties have fallen to true freshman Stephen Croone (8.4 PPG, 4.2 APG), who has matured as the season has progressed and is certainly making a bid for All-Freshman SoCon honors with his play so far this season.
Croone comes into the Paladins' second Southern Conference game of the season, posting the team's second-best scoring average, and he also enters the matchup with the Cougars, ranking second to only Citadel sophomore point guard Marshall Harris III in assists per game. Earlier this season, in a win over Southern Wesleyan, Croone tied a school record with 14 helpers.
In terms of being a threat as a scorer this season for the Paladins, Croone has registered five double-figure scoring efforts this season for the Paladins, registering a season-high 15 points in a loss to Clemson.
After struggling with turnovers early in the season, the Paladins have taken good care of the basketball as of late, and that has much to do with Croone's maturity at the position. The Paladins still sport a -2.8 turnover margin coming into Saturday's contest, which ranks the Paladins 10th in the SoCon in assist/turnover ratio, but Furman has only averaged 15 or fewer turnovers in each of the past five outings.
Croone hasn't proven to be much of a perimeter shooting threat this season, connecting on just 1-of-15 shots from long range so far this season.
Rounding out the starting five for the Paladins on Saturday will likely be Bobby Austin (5.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG), with Charlie Reddick's (8.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG) status uncertain after having suffered an injury a couple of weeks ago in the loss at Jacksonville.
Austin is another of the senior leaders on the Furman roster, and he was one of the three holdovers from the two previous seasons, which saw the Paladins combine to win 37 games, including the 22 victories a couple of years ago.
The senior from Cincinnati is one of the hardest workers on the Paladin roster, and he comes into Saturday's SoCon showdown at CofC having started eight out of 12 games for the Paladins this season. He has two double-figure scoring efforts this season, including a season-high 20 points to lead the Paladins to a win over PC.
Austin has once again proven to be one of the team's best perimeter threats this season, having connected on 15 treys (15-of-50, 30.0%).
After coming into the season as Furman's leading returning scorer, senior guard Charlie Reddick has struggled at times to find that type of production this season. Should Reddick find himself contributing against the Cougars on Saturday evening, the Paladins will need a big night from him to have any change of a second-straight upset win at TD Arena.
Reddick has four double-digit efforts this season, posting a season high 16 points in the win over PC. He posted 12 points as a part of a trio in double digits in the win at CofC last season. Reddick is also tied for second on the team in three-pointers made this season, having knocked down 15 triples, and he is shooting 31.9-percent (15-of-47) from three-point range this season.
Reddick might be the best athlete on the team, and is one of the team's best on-the-ball defenders. He ranks second on the team in steals, with 10 thefts this season.
The top reserves off the Furman bench this season have been freshman wing guard Larry Wideman (6.9 PPG, 2.2 RPG) and redshirt freshman Keith Belfield (4.5 PPG, 1.9 RPG). Wideman leads the team from the perimeter with 17 triples this season, and posted his best performance of the season against 18 points in the win over Southern Wesleyan.
Belfield can also be a threat from the perimeter; he had eight triples this season, and posted his career-high performance with nine points on a couple of occasions in wins over Southern Wesleyan and PC.
The College of Charleston enters Saturday's contest with an impressive resume that includes wins over Baylor (63-59), Boston College (71-67), and Old Dominion (76-65. The Cougars' lone Southern Conference win came in a 56-54 victory against a veteran, talented Elon team up at Alumni Gym.
The Cougars are in their final year as a Southern Conference member, as the Cougars are all set to join the CAA in 2014.
The Paladins caught the Cougars at the perfect time last season; it was ultimately a time of transition, with Bobby Cremins on his way out as a result of health concerns, and a team that really lacked chemistry, despite having plenty of talent, down the stretch last season.
Doug Wojcik took the reins of the Cougars' basketball program after a sour ending to his career at Tulsa last season. Other than one stretch about three weeks ago, which saw the Cougars drop a resounding setback to No. 4 Louisville (80-38) and and an unexplained blowout loss to Division II Anderson University (65-49) a few nights later on the home floor, the Wojcik has managed to seemingly utilize the talent he has at his disposal at the fullest for the most part this season.
The Cougars come into Saturday's Southern Conference contest against Palmetto State rival Furman with one of the top backcourt tandems in the league; both Andrew Lawrence (14.0 PPG, 4.0 APG) and Anthony Stitt (11.5 PPG, 3.7 APG) are the leaders in the backcourt this season.
Both Lawrence and Stitt are the lone double-figure scorers in the starting lineup for the Cougars so far this season. Lawrence, who played in the Olympics for Great Britain this past summer, has established himself as one of the league's top perimeter shooters over the past couple of seasons. Lawrence is tied for the team lead in three-point field goals, having knocked down 22 triples on the season, which matches his backcourt teammate Stitt. Lawrence is the reigning Southern Conference Player of the Week.
Lawrence has a pair of 22-point scoring performances this season, posting 22 points the last time out in the 85-75 win at Marist, while also posting 22 points in CofC's win over Boston College earlier this season in the Charleston Classic. Stitt also had a season-high 22 points earlier this season, which came in the win over Coastal Carolina.
The Cougars also have some of the best talent and athleticism in the Southern Conference in the front court as well, and that unit has been led by Adejhi Baru (9.4 PPG, 9.0 RPG), who has developed into one of the top big men in the Southern Conference, as he enters Saturday's contest averaging nearly a double-double per game.
Baru's nine boards per contest lead the Southern Conference, and he enters Saturday's contest against the Paladins with a couple of double-doubles this season.
Baru has had some great performances this season, including a 16-point, 14-board performance in the loss to Louisville, and he just missed a double-double effort in the win over Old Dominion, posting 20 points and nine boards. He comes in connecting on 50.0-percent (48-of-96) from the field this season, ranking ninth in the league in field goal percentage.
Teaming with Baru in the paint on Saturday afternoon will be juniors Anthony Thomas (7.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG) and Willis Hall (7.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG). Thomas is perhaps the team's top athlete, while Hall is one of its hardest workers.
Hall, Thomas and Baru have helped the Cougars out-rebound 10 of their 13 opponents so far this season, including out-boarding Marist by a whopping 14 boards on Saturday.
The Cougar front court has also gotten it down defending the paint, with the Cougars entering Saturday's contest leading the league in blocked shots, having swatted away 59 shots, averaging 4.5 collectively per game. Individually, that charge has been led by Baru, who leads the team and ranks fifth in the SoCon with 15 rejections this season.
The Cougars will utilize three players off the bench on Saturday against the Paladins, with Matt Sundberg (2.9 PPG, 2.7 RPG) and Nori Johnson (5.4 PPG, 2.1 RPG) contributing in the backcourt, while Theo Johnson (2.8 PPG, 2.2 RPG) will be the primary contributor in the front court off the pine.
This game has the potential to be close in the opening half, but the College of Charleston has too much talent to really be in danger of losing this game.
Final Score Prediction: College of Charleston 72, Furman 56
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