Birmingham, Ala. – Furman outscored Samford 15-1 over the final four minutes to rally past the Bulldogs for its 20th victory of the season with a 70-63 triumph in Southern Conference men's basketball action on Saturday at the Pete Hanna Center.
The win gives the Paladins (20-7, 12-4 SoCon) 20 victories for the first time since 1990-91 (20-9) and nine wins away from their home floor for the first time since the 1979-80 campaign. Samford dropped its fourth straight game to fall to 12-16 overall and 4-12 in conference play.
Trailing 62-55 following Josh Bedwell's trey with 4:08 left, Furman managed to make three of its final four field goal attempts and nine straight free throws down the stretch to complete the comeback. Brandon Sebirumbi ignited the run, scoring in the paint and finishing the three-point play at the foul line. After John Peterson made 1-of-2 free throws on Samford's possession, Sebirumbi drained a pair for Furman and Darryl Evans sliced to the basket for a lay-in to trim the lead to 63-62 following a Peterson turnover.
Gregg Wooten failed to convert on the front end of a one-and-one for Samford seconds later. Justin Dehm's three-point attempt to give Furman the lead missed, but Sebirumbi kept the Paladin possession alive with an offensive rebound and Evans found Amu Saaka for a slam as the shot clock ran down to put Furman ahead with 1:53 to play, 64-63.
Samford missed on long range jumpers on each of its next two trips down the floor and Jordan Miller connected on a pair of free throws to extend the Furman lead to 66-63 with 40 seconds left. On the other end of the floor, Miller swatted Wooten's driving layup into the hands of Evans and Miller and Evans each buried two free throws each in the final seconds as Furman scored the final 12 points to secure the win.
Samford, which led by as many as 14 points in the first half, shot 73.7% from the field in the opening 20 minutes to take a 37-28 lead into the break. Furman, on the strength of a four-point play from Saaka, exploded on a 10-0 run to open the second half as the Paladins grabbed their first lead of the night at 38-37 with 15:31 remaining. The lead changed hands six times over the final 16 minutes before Saaka's dunk gave Furman the lead for good with under two minutes to play.
Saaka connected on 7-of-10 field goal attempts, 4-of-6 from three-point range, to pace Furman with 23 points and nine rebounds. Sebirumbi scored 12 points, including a 6-for-7 effort at the foul line, while Miller added nine points. Colin Reddick contributed seven points and eight rebounds to help Furman to a 31-19 advantage on the glass.
Furman shot just 42.6% from the field, but made 23-of-27 free throws and scored 13 second chance points off of 13 offensive rebounds.
Jeffrey Merritt paced Samford with 12 points and Bedwell added 11 by converting on 3-of-6 treys. The Bulldogs, 10-of-23 from three-point range, shot 53.7% from the floor, but only 36% after intermission.
Furman travels to the McKenzie Arena to face Chattanooga on Monday at 7 p.m. before hosting Wofford in the regular season finale on February 26, at 2 p.m. With its victory over Samford, Furman remains in control of its on destiny in its search for a first round bye in next month's SoCon Tournament. The Paladins can clinch the bye if the beat Wofford head-to-head next Saturday.
Paladin fans can follow all of the action versus Mocs with the "Voice of the Paladins" Chuck Hussion on the Furman Sports Network at WGOG-FM 96.3 and WOLT-FM 103.3. Furman basketball can also be heard through Stretch Audio at www.furmanpaladins.com.