Furman (4-12, 1-4 SoCon) at UNC Greensboro (4-12, 2-3 SoCon)
Jan. 20, 2012, 2:00 p.m.
Greensboro, N.C., Greensboro Coliseum (7,617)
Furman heads to UNC Greensboro for a rare Sunday afternoon Southern Conference game, as the Paladins look to rebound from a 73-59 loss to Elon on Thursday night, while the Spartans are coming off a big 71-52 win over Wofford on Wednesday night.
Sunday afternoon's meeting between the Paladins and Spartans marks the 22nd all-time meeting between the two programs, with Furman holding a narrow 11-10 all-time series edge. In the lone meeting between the two last season in Greenville, the Paladins were 93-85 victors. Furman is just 1-8 all-time against the Spartans in Greensboro, with the lone win by the Paladins coming in the 2010-11 season.
It's the same "usual suspects" leading the Spartans so far this season, with the Spartans bringing one of the top backcourts in the Southern Conference into Sunday's matchup, led by the league's leading scorer Trevis Simpson (18.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG).
Simpson is the league's most-dynamic scorer, and is coming off a 19-point effort in the win over Wofford on Wednesday night in the 19-point win. Simpson ended last season's meeting with the Paladins, posting 28 points on 9-of-21 shooting from the field and 8-of-9 from the charity stripe.
Teaming with Simpson in the backcourt on Sunday afternoon for the Spartans will be Derrell Armstrong (16.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG) and Drew Parker (4.3 PPG, team-leading 51 assists), who will handle the point guard responsibilities for the Spartans on Sunday.
Armstrong comes into the contest ranking third in the SoCon in scoring average, and he has scored in double figures in 13 games this season, including 16 the last time out in the win over the Terriers. Armstrong has knocked down 26 three-point shots this season, while backcourt mate Simpson has canned 30 triples this season.
Parker is the straw that stirs the drink for the UNCG offense, manning the point guard responsibilities. He averages 3.2 assists-per-game, which ranks him 11th overall in the SoCon in assists-per-game.
Set to start at the two post positions for the will be David Williams (4.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG) and one of the league's top newcomers, in freshman forward Kayel Locke (10.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG). Locke has been the "x-factor" at times for the Spartans this season, and he has had some standout performances for UNCG. He had a career-high 22 points in a loss to cross-town rival North Carolina A&T earlier this season, but has been held under double figures in each of the last three games.
The Spartans will be without Korey Van Dussen once again, who is out with an injury. The top performers off the Spartans' bench this season have been sharp-shooting Nicholas Paulos (7.1 PPG, 2.4 RPG), who leads the team with 31 triples this season, as well as Kelvin McNeil (6.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG), who adds good athleticism underneath the basket for the Spartans.
UNCG continues to be the SoCon's top offensive team, entering Sunday's matinee matchup with the Paladins averaging a league-best 73.8 PPG, while also continuing to struggle on the defensive end of the floor, surrendering a league-high 76.4 PPG.
Furman, who is 1-13 in its last 14 road contests dating back to last season, will look to post its first road game of the 2012-13 season, in what is the second of a three-game road swing. The Paladins continue to be led by Colin Reddick (12.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG), who remains the lone Paladin scoring in double figures entering Sunday's matchup. Reddick contributed 18 points in Furman's loss at Elon Thursday night.
Reddick scored a career-high 25 points in a road loss at the College of Charleston a couple of weeks ago. Teaming with Reddick underneath the basket on Sunday afternoon will be one of the league's more impressive freshman low-post performers, in Kendrec Ferrara (7.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG). Ferrara has been solid in Southern Conference play this season, averaging 9.4 PPG and 4.6 RPG.
Furman's starting trio in the backcourt for Sunday's contest will consist of point guard Stephen Croone (8.3 PPG, 4.3 APG), along with wing guards Bobby Austin (6.2 PPG, 2.8 RPG) and Larry Wideman (7.5 PPG, 2.2 RPG).
Croone enters the contest having a big true freshman campaign for the Paladins, as he comes in ranking second in the SoCon in assists average so far this season. Wideman, who is the third freshman starter in the lineup, leads the team in three-point field goals this season, having knocked down 23 triples so far this season. Austin, a senior, is coming off his best game of the season, leading the Paladins with 19 points in the loss at Elon on Thursday night.
Furman will bring some solid depth off the bench, including last year's leading scorer Charlie Reddick (8.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG), who can either play guard or underneath the basket and is the team's most athletic perimeter defender, as well as sharp-shooting post presence Bryant Irwin (7.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG). Irwin canned five treys in Furman's loss at SMU earlier this season.
At times this season, the Paladins have found cold spells in the offense and have had trouble scoring the basketball. In fact, Furman enters Sunday's contest with the Spartans averaging just 61.1 PPG, which ranks ninth among the 12 league teams, and are connecting on just 40.7-percent of its shots from the league, which ranks 11th in the SoCon in field goal percentage.
Furman will keep it close into the second half, but look for UNCG's athleticism and depth to be the difference in the second half, as the Paladins drop to 1-9 versus the Spartans in the Gate City.
Final Score Prediction: 86-80 Spartans