Greenville, S.C. – Jelani Hewitt poured in 22 points to lead four Eagles in double figures and Georgia Southern allowed just one field goal over the final 7:54 to down Furman, 82-73, in the Paladins' regular season finale on Thursday evening at Timmons Arena.
Georgia Southern, playing its final regular season game versus the Paladins as a member of the Southern Conference, improved to 13-17 overall and 6-9 in league play. Furman finished the regular season at 9-20 overall and 3-13 in the SoCon.
Furman trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half and faced a 47-34 deficit at intermission before mounting a second-half comeback. Adonis Rwabigwi opened the second half with a dunk as the Paladins reeled off 11 straight points to cut the Eagle lead to 47-45 on a William Gates Jr. jumper with 17:34 to play. Georgia Southern built its lead back to eight points, but Stephen Croone capped a 12-4 Paladin run with six consecutive points to knot the game at 63-63 on a driving layup with 7:55 to play.
The Eagles clamped down the on the Paladins from that point, allowing just one made field goal for the remainder of the game while outscoring Furman 19-10 down the stretch. Hewitt, who connected for three of Georgia Southern's nine three-pointers on the night, answered Croone's bucket with six straight points to put the Eagles ahead for good.
Trey Bussey scored 17 points, Brian Holmes netted 14 points and Curtis Diamond added 11 to join Hewitt in double figures. The Eagles shot 52.9% from the floor, including 61.5% in the first half as they opened up a 38-24 lead with under three minutes remaining in the period by hitting 9-of-13 first half three-point attempts. Georgia Southern managed a 31-23 rebounding edge and connected on 19-of-26 free throws.
Croone paced Furman with 26 points and seven assists. The sophomore made 6-of-15 field goal tries and 13-of-15 free throw attempts. Gates tallied 13 points and Kendrec Ferrara added 12 points off of the bench.
Furman shot 47.1% and made good on 19-of-23 trips to the charity stripe, but the Paladins converted on only 6-of-21 three-point tries.
The loss leaves Furman with the No. 10 seed for next week's Southern Conference Men's Basketball Championship at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, N.C. The Paladins will face the yet to be determined No. 7 seed at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, March 7.
All Furman games at the SoCon Tournament can be heard live on WGOG FM 96.3, Fox Sports 1440 AM and through StretchAudio at www.FurmanPaladins.com. Fans can access live updates on Twitter by following @FurmanHoops.