The Mocs take the floor against Furman on Valentine's Day, feeling the best about themselves that they have felt most of the year. They are sitting at 5-7 in SoCon play, and find themselves just one and a half games out of the fourth SoCon bye.
Yes, the Paladins are struggling, but the Mocs have to make sure that they come focused and prepared and take care of business at home.
After Furman beat Georgia Southern on January 31, there was a sudden feeling that the Paladins might in fact be in the bye race. All they had to do was beat The Citadel at home and they would be 4-5 in SoCon play and right in the heart of the race, with a struggling UNCG team coming to town the following week. They lead The Citadel 40-24, and then everything fell apart....and they have really never come back together. They lost to The Citadel, then lost by 23 at home against UNCG, before having a solid home showing against Elon (a four point loss), and a decent showing on the road (a six point loss to Appalachian State).
In other words, Furman has not been getting blown out, including a four point loss at College of Charleston and an eight point home loss to Davidson. The blow out to UNCG was apparrenly an anomaly. Will they be able to show up in Chattanooga and come up with and stun the Mocs faithful who are expecting an easy win?
The Reddick twins lead Furman. Colin Reddick is a handful. He is 6-9, 240 pounds. He is shooting 51.9% from the floor, and is the only Paladin in double figures. He is averaging 12.7 points per game while also averaging 6.4 rebounds per contest. Charlie Reddick is 6-5. He is second on the team in rebounds with 5.1 boards per game. He is averaging 9.5 points per game. He has also made 31 three pointers, which is tied for the team lead with Larry Wideman, and one ahead of Bobby Austin.
Wideman is averaging 7.9 points per game to go along with his threes. Austin is averaging 6.4 points per game.
Stephen Croone is second on the team in scoring with 9.7 points per game. He leads the team with 4.2 assists per game. He had 14 assists against South Wesleyan and 12 assists against The Citadel. He has averaged 13.1 points per game in the last seven games. He has scored in double digits in every game during that stretch. He had only scored in double figures in six of sixteen games prior to that.
Furman is the worst team in the conference at committing turnovers. They commit turnovers on 23% of their possessions in SoCon play. If the Mocs continue their pressure defense, they will likely be able to force some turnovers from the Paladins. They are also not a great rebounding team, whereas the Mocs are a very good rebounding team. Drazen Zlovaric and Z Mason will have to control Colin Reddick's inside presence.
When Furman has been able to retain possession of the ball, they actually have been a pretty good shooting team. They have an eFG% of 50.7, which is good enough for fifth in the SoCon. The Mocs have not been able to get teams to stop making shots in almost any situation this year. That changed against Samford, when the Mocs played some solid defense after a hot start by the Bulldogs. Lance Stokes defense has really helped the Mocs. He can shut down one of the opposing teams players. He will probably be assigned to Croone, because that is the player that most likely needs to be shut down for the Paladins.
LEAD PIPE LOCK PREDICTIONS THAT ARE SURE TO GO WRONG
--Colin Reddick and Charlie Reddick will wind up making me feel more than a little nervous about this one.
--The Paladins will find a way to make a few threes- particularly Bobby Austin.
--Gee McGhee will get the ball to the basket and have a solid game.
--Drazen Zlovaric will continue his current hot streak.
--Z Mason will have another solid performance.
--Rico White may not score, but he will continue to distribute the ball.
--Mocs 77, Furman 68. The Mocs will force enough turnovers to hold down the Paladins. My biggest question is about the Mocs freshness. After all, we know that they were tired heading into Monday's game, and that went overtime. So how will they be coming back 72 hours later? Will they have their legs back? If they do, the Mocs will likely be able to come up with the win. If they don't, this will be a battle to the end.