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Minnesota Escapes Furman, 86-76; Paladins’ Croone Eclipses 1,000-Point Plateau

Stephen Croone
Stephen Croone

Minneapolis, Minn. -- Junior Stephen Croone poured in 25 points and became the 40th Paladin to reach 1,000 career points, but Minnesota outscored Furman 12-2 over the final 3:04 to escape with an 86-76 victory on Monday night at Williams Arena in Minneapolis, Minn.

After Furman tied the game at 74-74 on Stephen Croone's driving layup with 3:12 remaining, DeAndre Mathieu raced down the floor to put Minnesota back in front by two points.  With under two minutes remaining, the Golden Gophers won the battle for a loose ball and kicked it out to Nate Mason, who drained a three to up the margin to 79-74 with 1:51 left.

Minnesota (10-2) stopped Furman on the Paladins' next possession and Mathieu scored on the other end to increase the margin to 81-74 before Croone drew a three-shot foul with 36.5 seconds left.  The Covington, Ga., native made 2-of-3 free throws, but the Golden Gophers converted on 5-of-6 trips to the charity stripe in the final 35 seconds to seal the victory.

"One thing I'm learning about this team is that these guys will fight and I'm proud of that," said Furman head coach Niko Medved.  "We got ourselves in position in the last four minutes, but like I told our guys, it comes down to making stops, not making shots.  They scored on eight of their last 10 possessions.  Once we can change that mentality about our team, that's when it will turn for us."

Furman (2-8) trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half before closing the period on a 13-6 run to trim the Golden Gophers' lead to 40-33 at the break.  The Paladins exploded offensively in the second half converting on 17 of their first 23 shots and took their first lead of the night at 61-60 on Geoff Beans' trey with 7:54 to play.

The lead changed hands seven times over the next 4:30 before Mathieu pushed Minnesota in front for good with just over three minutes to play.

Croone connected on 6-of-14 shots, including 5-of-9 beyond the arc, to lead the Paladins with 25 points, while fellow junior Kendrec Ferrara netted a season-best 18 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to record a double-double.  Freshmen Beans and Daniel Fowler rounded out Furman's double digit scorers with 14 and 13 points, respectively.

The Paladins finished at 47.5% from the floor after connecting on 63% of their second half shots and burying a season-high 12 three-pointers on 26 attempts.

Minnesota was led by Joey King's 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting.  Mathieu finished with 16 points, seven assists and five steals, while Mason and Maurice Walker reached double figures with 14 and 11 points, respectively.

The Golden Gophers shot 52.5% from the field and forced Furman into 19 turnovers which led to 18 Minnesota points.  The Golden Gophers also compiled a 38-31 edge on the glass.

Furman returns home to host the St. Andrews Knights on December 30, at Timmons Arena.  Fans can listen to the broadcast on the Furman IMG Sports Network on flagship station WGOG 96.3 FM and Fox Sports 1440 AM with play-by-play voice Dan Scott and color commentator Ron Smith delivering the action.  The audio broadcast will also be available by logging onto Tunein.com  Links for the broadcast and live statistics will be available at FurmanPaladins.com.

Jordan Caskey, Furman Sports Information