Greenville, S.C. – Senior Amu Saaka scored 20 points to lead five Paladins in double figures as Furman rolled past South Carolina 91-75 in non-conference men's basketball action before a crowd of 2,717 on Wednesday evening at Timmons Arena.
The win, Furman's fifth straight, marked its first triumph over the Gamecocks since February 20, 1980, and first win over a Southeastern Conference foe since a 70-62 victory at Vanderbilt on November 28, 2006. With the win, the Paladins improved to 8-2 for the first time since the 1987-88 season. South Carolina slipped to 7-3 with its second straight defeat.
Leading just 71-67 with 6:05 remaining, Furman reeled off seven straight points to open up a 78-67 advantage with four minutes left and never led by fewer than seven points the rest of the way. Saaka opened the run taking a pass from Colin Reddick for a layup and completing the three-point play at the foul line before Reddick drained a short jumper to put Furman up by nine. Darryl Evans stole the ball from Bruce Ellington and scored on the fast break to up the advantage to 11 points.
A jumper and three-pointer from Ellington helped South Carolina trim the margin to 79-72, but Furman followed an Evans layup with back-to-back steals and baskets from Jordan Miller to put the game out of reach at 85-72 with 1:35 to play.
Saaka became the first Paladin since 1998 to convert on 14-of-14 trips to the foul line to pace Furman with 20 points and a game-high eight rebounds. Jordan Miller added 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting while Dehm, who connected on 5-of-5 three-point attempts, and Brandon Sebirumbi scored 15 points apiece. Evans added 11 points, six boards, five assists and three steals.
Furman shot 52.6% from the field to net its season-high 91 points. The Paladins, who also connected on 24-of-29 free throws, outscored the Gamecocks 40-26 in the paint and outrebounded South Carolina 44-26.
Ellington made 6-of-13 treys to lead South Carolina with 31 points. Guard Brian Richardson added 15 points on 4-of-9 shooting beyond the arc and Ramon Galloway came off of the bench to contribute 11 points. South Carolina made 12-of-30 three-pointers, but converted on just 11 of its 20 trips to the charity stripe and shot 43% from the floor.
South Carolina raced out to a 10-2 lead in the first half before Sebirumbi scored six points to key a 16-2 spurt that gave the Paladins an 18-12 lead on Chris Toler's tip-in with 12:09 left in the period. The Gamecocks clawed back to grab a one-point lead, but senior Justin Dehm buried three of his five first half three-pointers as the Paladins capped the half on a 16-8 run to carry a 41-33 lead into intermission.
The victory, which came without second leading scorer Noah States who missed his second straight game due to a groin injury, gave Furman its first five-game winning streak since the 2002-03 campaign.
The Paladins return to action on December 29, when they visit undefeated and 24th-ranked University of Central Florida in the opening round of the UCF Holiday Classic presented by EA Sports in Orlando, Fla. Tip-off against the Golden Knights is set to approximately 7 p.m. immediately following the tournament opener between Northeastern and Princeton.
Paladin fans can also follow all the action at the UCF Holiday Classic with the "Voice of the Paladins" Chuck Hussion on the Furman Network at WGOG-FM 96.3 and WOLT-FM 103.3. Furman basketball can also be heard through Stretch Audio at www.furmanpaladins.com.