Davidson (15-5, 9-1 SoCon) at Furman (11-10, 5-5 SoCon), 7:00 PM
Furman is a basketball team that is heating up as we head into the month of February, playing some of its best basketball of the 2011-12 season entering Wednesday night's game against league juggernaut Davidson.
The Wildcats enter the contest coming off their first loss of the conference season, as the Wildcats were 77-74 losers at Samford on Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, the Paladins enter the contest having won four of their last five games, including a 67-58 win at The Citadel on Saturday night.
Saturday night's meeting between the Wildcats and Paladins marks the second of the season between the Paladins and Wildcats, with Davidson posting an 86-65 win in the first meeting between the two South Division rivals earlier this season.
Davidson and Furman have met 156 times in the history of the series, with the Wildcats holding a commanding 95-61 all-time series edge. The Wildcats have 28 of the last 30 meetings between the two schools, but it was Furman that claimed an 88-79 win over the Wildcats when Davidson visited Timmons Arena last season.
Furman has been able to get back into the mix in the South Division by playing sound on the defensive end of the floor. The Paladins come into Wednesday night's contest ranking second in the SoCon in scoring defense, as the Paladins are holding foes to just 63.9 PPG this season. The Paladins are also ranking towards the top of the league in field goal percentage defense, entering the contest ranking fifth in the league in field goal percentage defense, holding teams to 43.3% shooting from the field.
Davidson will bring one of the most physical teams in the SoCon to Timmons Arena on Wednesday night. Prior to Saturday afternoon's loss at Samford, the Wildcats were winners of 13 straight regular season Southern Conference games.
Wednesday night's matchup will match two of the league's top big men against each other, in Davidson's Jake Cohen (14.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG) and Furman's Brandon Sebirumbi (10.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG).
Both Cohen and Sebirumbi have been two of the hottest post players in the Southern Conference of late, with Cohen having scored in double figures in seven of the past eight games, with his lone non-double figure scoring effort coming in Saturday afternoon's 77-74 setback at Samford. Six of the past eight games have seen Cohen total 20 or points, winning SoCon Player of the Week accolades during that time-span.
Joining Cohen down in the paint for the Wildcats on Wednesday night will be De'Mon Brooks (15.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG), who has continued to have a solid season for the Wildcats. Brooks continues to lead the Wildcats in scoring this season, and performed well in the initial matchup between the two this season, as he totaled 15 points and seven boards in the Wildcats' big win back in early December. Brooks is coming off a solid performance in the loss at Samford on Saturday, as Brooks posted 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting from the field and was 4-of-6 from the charity stripe in the three-point loss to the Bulldogs.
Brooks enters Wednesday night's game ranking sixth in the SoCon in scoring, and his 52.4% shooting clip from the field marks the seventh-best shooting clip in the Southern Conference entering the contest. In six games this season, Brooks has scored 20 or more points. He is easily the Wildcats' best athletic presence on the floor, and he will likely cause Furman matchup problems this evening, as he has pretty much every opponent in the SoCon this season.
Sebirumbi will be joined underneath the Paladin basket by Chris Toler (3.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG), who Furman head coach Jeff Jackson has called Furman's top post defender coming into the season. Toler enters the contest as not much of a scoring presence at all, but he has proven to be a solid defender in the post when he can stay out of foul trouble. He will have a tough assignment tonight, whether he draws Cohen or Brooks.
The Davidson backcourt trio is solid and experienced. Coming into the contest, the Wildcats have a pair of guards averaging in double figures, in point guard Nic Cochran (11.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 3.3 APG) and wing guard J.P. Kuhlman (11.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG). Both Kuhlman and Cochran are excellent scorers, as well as being excellent on-the-ball defenders. Cochran is the team's second-most prolific perimeter shooter, and he has connected on 35 triples for the season.
Kuhlman might be the Wildcats' best all-around player, and he comes in leading the team on the defensive end of the floor, as he comes into this evening's contest with 22 thefts on the season. He comes in shooting 36.0% (27-of-75) from three-point range this season.
In a backcourt that prides itself on good defensive play, the best defender might be sophomore Tom Droney (4.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG). Droney was a player that helped shut down Amu Saaka in the first meeting between the Paladins and Wildcats last season, holding Saaka to a meager six points in the Paladins' 79-70 setback at Belk Arena last season. Droney is one of the top defensive players in the league, and he will likely draw the assignment of trying to lock down Furman's Charlie Reddick (10.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG) this evening.
Reddick leads what has been a Furman backcourt that has continued to make progress as the 2011-12 season has progressed. Like the play of Sebirumbi in the front court for the Paladins as of late, it's been Reddick's play in the backcourt that has given Furman some scoring balance and versatility over the past five games, and that has been one of the big reasons the Paladins are playing some of their best basketball of the campaign over the the last half of the month of January.
In the initial meeting between the Paladins and Wildcats this season, Reddick finished just outside of double digits in total points, finishing with nine on 3-for-9 shooting from the field, but was 0-for-2 from three. Reddick is averaging 13.3 PPG and 6.3 RPG over the last four outings.
Reddick is the Paladins' top perimeter shooter this season, as he has connected on a team-leading 43 triples this season, shooting 39.4% (43-for-109) from three-point range this season. Reddick is also playing well on the defensive end of the court for the Paladins, leading the team in steals (23) and blocks (14).
Joining Reddick in the starting backcourt this evening will likely be freshman point guard Jordan Lloyd (4.2 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 21 assists) and wing guard Bobby Austin (7.2 PPG, 2.5 RPG). Lloyd has had to grow up fast as of late, but has continued to show maturity and why he was such a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school.
Furman has won all three games on the road that Lloyd has started. He has had to step into the starting role as a result of regular starter Richard Brown (8.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG) having been sidelined with back issues. Lloyd is coming off a solid performance against The Citadel, as he scored seven points, dished out three assists and turned the ball over only once in the 67-58 win.
Austin is an excellent defensive presence in the backcourt for the Paladins and along with Reddick, might be the best athlete on the roster. He has 10 blocks this season, but he needs to be more aggressive on the offensive end of the floor, as evidenced in his performance in the 32-point win over The Citadel at home back in early January.
In that contest, the redshirt senior posted a career-high 17 points. Austin nearly found his way into double figures the last time out in the road win at The Citadel, posting nine points on 3-for-5 from the field, including 1-for-3 from three in the game.
As is usually the case when head coach Bob McKillop has a title-contending team in Davidson, N.C., his Wildcats come to Greenville on Monday night with one of the deepest benches in the league.
In the backcourt, Chris Czerapowicz (9.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG) and freshman Tyler Kalinoski (5.2 PPG, 2.2 RPG) are the top players off the bench for the Wildcats. Czerapowicz is the best perimeter shooter for the Wildcats, and he enters the contest with a team-leading 35 triples this season, but is shooting just 31.8% (35-for-110) from three-point land this season. The top players off the bench in the front court for the Wildcats are Clint Mann (5.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG) and Frank Ben-Eze (0.8 PPG, 1.4 RPG) are the top performers.
Furman has one of the top benches in the league this season, and that's primarily because the Paladins have spread their scoring more across the team this season, as opposed to last, even though Furman was a deeper team in 2010-11. Bryson Barnes (7.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 10 blocks) is the Paladins' top performer off the bench and gives the Paladins instant offense and energy. His prowess as one of the league's top shot-blockers can shift the momentum of a game.
Bryant Irwin (7.9 PPG, 3.3 RPG), a St. Joseph's transfer, has been inconsistent as a scorer this season, but he has the ability to score points in a hurry with his ability as a perimeter shooter. That was the case in last week's win at College of Charleston. Irwin has knocked down 30 treys this season to rank second on the team. Irwin had his best game as a Paladin the first time Furman met Davidson this season, posting 21 points.
Also set to contribute in the front court will be athletic freshman small forward Dominic Early (3.9 PPG, 1.8 RPG) and Colin Reddick (4.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG), who has stepped up his play of late and always seems to play well against Davidson. In the backcourt, look for David Brown (2.8 PPG, 0.8 APG) to see plenty of action as Furman's understudy at the point.
While Furman is turning out to be a better basketball team than most thought this season, it's still a tall order to take a Davidson team that is head and shoulders above the rest of the SoCon this season, especially coming off their first league loss of the 2011-12 season. Davidson pulls away in the second half after a tight opening 20 minutes.
FINAL SCORE PREDICTION: DAVIDSON 72, FURMAN 60