Furman (9-20) vs. Georgia Southern (13-18)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, March 7, 1:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: U.S. Cellular Center (7,654) -- Asheville, North Carolina. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Furman 6-8, GSU 7-6. Away Record: Furman 3-12, GSU 5-11. Neutral Record: Furman 0-0, GSU 1-1. Conference Record: Furman 3-13, GSU 6-10. Series Record: Georgia Southern leads, 25-24.
GAME NOTES: In first-round action of the 2014 Southern Conference Tournament, the seventh-seeded Georgia Southern Eagles face a familiar foe, as they take on the 10th-seeded Furman Paladins at U.S. Cellular Center.
These teams just met on Feb. 27, with Georgia Southern earning an 82-73 road win to sweep the season series. The Eagles claimed an 88-81 victory on Jan. 16 as well and have won four of the last five meetings to pull ahead in the all- time series, 25-24. The winner of this meeting advances to play second-seeded Chattanooga in Saturday's second round.
Furman didn't win many games against the rest of the conference this season, entering the postseason at just 3-13 in league play and 9-20 overall. The loss to the Eagles came in the regular-season finale for the Paladins, who dropped three of their final four games of the campaign.
Georgia Southern is also stumbling into the postseason. The Eagles split their final four games and went just 4-6 over the course of the last 10. In all, the Eagles are sporting a 13-18 overall record and a 6-10 mark in league play.
Stephen Croone finished with game-highs of 26 points and seven assists for Furman in the recent loss to Georgia Southern. The Paladins allowed the Eagles to sink 52.9 percent from the floor, while facing deficits from 3-point range (27-18) and on the boards (31-23).
Croone (19.3 ppg, 3.7 apg) is one of the best guards in the SoCon. He is second in the conference in scoring and third in assists. A 46.8 percent shooter from the field, Croone scored in double figures in the final 19 games of the season, including every conference contest. The list of scorers dries up quickly from there, however, with Kendrec Ferrara (10 ppg) the only other player on the team averaging in double figures. With such limited options on offense, the Paladins finished the regular season as the worst scoring team in the league (65.7 ppg).
Following the bout with Furman, Georgia Southern visited The Citadel in its regular-season finale. The Eagles were routed in that contest (80-63), as they allowed a Bulldogs team with only five wins coming in to shoot 54.4 percent from the floor, including a 10-of-24 effort from 3-point range.
This game provides a level of intrigue not present in some of the other bouts, as Jelani Hewitt (20 ppg), who leads the SoCon in scoring, will be going head- to-head with Croone, the player right behind him on the league's scoring list. However, Hewitt only had 10 points on a miserable 4-of-20 shooting against The Citadel. Tre Bussey (16.3 ppg) is another potent scorer, and he picked up the slack en route to 29 points in the loss to the Bulldogs. All told, the Eagles have been a more productive than the Paladins, netting 71.7 ppg on 43.6 percent shooting.
Having two dangerous scorers like Hewitt and Bussey gives the Eagles a major advantage against Furman, a team that relies too heavily on Croone. The Paladins could not beat Georgia Southern during the regular season, and that won't change here.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgia Southern 78, Furman 71
03/07 10:33:01 ET