Furman played fantastic team basketball on offense that helped them get off to a quick 14-2 start. Once they got this lead they never looked back. They were moving the ball well, making extra passes and getting into the paint with ease. UNC Asheville coach Nick DeViit was forced to switch to multiple types of zone defense to slow down the Furman attack. Once the Bulldogs settled into their zone defense, they were able to inch their way closer on the scoreboard to a 12-point deficit at the half.
The Bulldogs were within striking distance to begin the second half but Furman rattled off nine points in three possessions to open up the lead. Furman was leading by as much as 26 points in the second half but UNC Asheville never gave up. A late surge kept the scoreboard close in the end but the outcome of the game was never in doubt. The Paladins play great team defense mostly due to their versatility. They have several players that are able to switch and defend multiple positions and they communicate very well as a team. On the offensive side of the ball Furman likes to force the issue as soon as they corral a rebound. However, they didn’t seem to be out of control if they don’t have a good scoring opportunity.
Furman was lead tonight in the scoring column by Junior forward Matt Rafferty with 22 points. Rafferty is a strong post presence who showed he can finish through contact in the paint and displayed a couple of nice post moves. He was also perfect from the line, going 6-of-6. The MVP of this team however, is senior guard Devin Sibley. Sibley had 16 points tonight to go along with five assists. He was able to knock down some shots from the outside and also get in the paint and dish it to teammates for easy opportunities. He is an intriguing prospect who can defend either guard position with his quickness and strength. On offense, he is a more than capable three-point catch and shoot threat who can get in the paint and finish at the rim. Another key contributor for the Paladins tonight was Andrew Brown who had 11 points, four rebounds and four steals.
UNC Asheville is coming off an excellent 2016-2017 campaign in which they won the Big South conference tournament. They are the favorite to win their conference again this year. The Bulldogs are a tough team led by senior guard Kevin Vannatta, who contributed 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting. He is the vocal leader of the team who is always imploring his teammates to play harder. He rarely makes mistakes and can finish in the paint with contact. Sophomore guard MaCio Teague is the team’s leading scorer at 14.0 ppg through this early season. Tonight he reached his season average on 5-of-11 shooting. The Furman defense did a good job of keeping MaCio from getting easy looks. Senior forward Alec Wnuk also contributed 12 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Wnuk is another senior vocal leader who plays relentlessly on both ends of the court. Another player with potential is the 6-9 sophomore from Germany, Jonathan Baehre. He didn’t get much playing time tonight but he will earn more minutes as he continues to develop and get stronger. He only weighs 200 pounds but he is long and very athletic.
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