Greenville, S.C. – Keith Belfield and Stephen Croone tallied 15 points apiece and Furman never trailed en route to a 68-53 victory over Appalachian State in the final meeting between the schools as Southern Conference rivals on Saturday afternoon at Timmons Arena.
The victory improved the Paladins, winners of two of their last three outings, to 9-18 overall and 3-11 in league play. The Mountaineers, who leave the SoCon for the Sun Belt Conference following this season, slipped to 8-19 overall and 4-10 in the SoCon.
The Paladins shot 60% from the field in the second half to outscore the Mountaineers 43-32 over the final 20 minutes as Belfield netted 10 of his career-high 15 points in the second period. Croone, who has scored in double figures in 26 of his 27 games this season, hit 4-of-7 shots from the floor and 6-of-7 free throw attempts to go with six assists and three steals. Freshman William Gates Jr. added 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting while senior Charlie Reddick grabbed a team-high 11 boards.
The Paladins jumped out to a 12-5 lead in the opening minutes before Appalachian State used a 9-2 spurt to tie the game at 14-14 with 8:27 to play in the first half. Croone and Belfield answered by combining for seven straight Paladin points top open up a 21-14 lead.
The Mountaineers trailed by just four points with 16:45 to play, but Belfield capped another 7-0 Furman run with a three-pointer to give the Paladins a 36-25 advantage with 14:51 remaining. Appalachian trimmed the margin back to six points on two occasions only to have Gates and Belfield answer to maintain Furman's lead.
The Paladins held Appalachian State to 31.1% shooting from the floor, blocked seven shots and limited the Mountaineers to 3-for-14 shooting from three-point range. Appalachian State managed a 45-31 rebounding edge, but Furman outscored the visitors 34-30 in the paint and 10-2 in transition. Furman shot 50% from the field and connected on 14-of-22 free throw attempts.
Tommy Spagnolo paced ASU with 16 points and 11 boards while Jay Canty added 10 points.
Furman plays its third game in five days when it hosts the Elon Phoenix on Monday. Tip-off on YP Court at Timmons Arena is set for 7 p.m.
Monday's game can be heard live on WGOG FM 96.3, Fox Sports 1440 AM and through StretchAudio at www.FurmanPaladins.com. Live streaming video of the contest will also be available at FurmanPaladins.com for a subscription fee. Fans can access live updates on Twitter by following @FurmanHoops.