ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Lee Skinner scored 17 points, Eric Garcia added 15, and top-seeded Wofford held off 10th-seeded Furman 67-64 to capture the Southern Conference championship on Monday night and earn its fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament in six seasons.
The Terriers (28-6) ended the Paladins’ unlikely run to the championship and won despite Furman shooting 52 percent from the field.
Karl Cochran added 11 points, and Spencer Collins had 10 for the Terriers.
Furman (11-22), the tournament’s lowest seed, but pulled off three straight upsets over The Citadel, Chattanooga and Mercer to reach the title game. However, the Paladins didn’t quite have enough to complete what would have been a remarkable run to the NCAA Tournament.
Geoff Beans had 15 points on five 3-pointers, and Stephen Croone had 14 to lead the Paladins, who don’t have a senior in their rotation.
The Terriers couldn’t pull away in the second half as Furman continued its hot shooting.
Croone gave the Paladins the lead at 60-58 lead with 5:30 left when he used his quickness to blow past a defender for an uncontested layup.
But Cochran drained a 25-footer from the top of the key with the shot clock running down to give the Terriers the lead for good.
After Kendrec Ferrera missed a short jumper, Garcia followed with a 3-pointer from the left wing to push Wofford’s lead to four.
The Terriers had a chance to increase their lead but missed five shots on the same possession, and Furman called timeout with 1:20 left. The Paladins went to Fowler, who made a spin move and scored in the lane to cut the deficit to two.
After Wofford missed, Fowler couldn’t connect on a drive to the hole with a chance to tie.
Garcia knocked down the front end of a 1-and-1 with 26 seconds left to push the lead to three.
Down 65-62, Croone drove to the lane for the layup to cut the Wofford lead to one. The Paladins fouled Garcia again, and this time he both free throws to push the lead to 67-64 with 12 seconds remaining.
Devin Sibley attempted a 3-pointer from the corner with 10 seconds left that came up short.
Skinner, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, missed two free throws, and a last second heave by John Davis III fell short at the buzzer. Terrier fans then stormed the floor to celebrate the team’s return to the NCAA Tournament.
Furman shot 59 percent in the first half, including 6 of 8 from 3-point range, and headed to the locker room tied at 36.
Beans provided the spark in a reserve role with three 3s, and Daniel Fowler added a baseline dunk and a contested fastbreak layup late in the half.
Furman: Forward Kris Acox, the team’s leading rebounder this season, started strong with six points and two blocks before leaving six minutes in due to a left foot injury. He didn’t return. Acox broke his right foot in 2013, forcing him to miss a good portion of the second half of last season.
Wofford: The Terriers had defeated the Paladins by 25 points and two points earlier in the season. … Wofford held a 31-21 rebounding edge.
Wofford: Will await its matchup in the NCAA Tournament
Furman: Season is over.
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