Thursday, November 8, 2018

Furman Heads to 2018 Final Four Participant Loyola-Chicago Friday Night

Matt Rafferty set to return to home as Furman takes on Loyola-Chicago Friday night

The Game:
Furman (1-0) at Loyola-Chicago (1-0)

Coaches: Furman—Bob Richey (24-10/2nd Yr at Furman); Loyola-Chicago—Porter Moser (122-111/8th Yr at Loyola)

Series: Furman and Loyola-Chicago will be meeting for the third-time, with the series tied 1-1.

Venue and Time: Gentile Arena/8 p.m. EST

How To Watch: NBCSN Chicago/ESPN3

Brief Synopsis of Last Meeting: Loyola Chicago 77, Furman 50 (Dec. 1, 2012)
Behind 19 points from Devin Turk, the Ramblers avenged a loss in Greenville a year earlier, with a 77-50 win over the Paladins at Gentile Arena; The Ramblers are 2-2 all-time against members of the Southern Conference, knocking off Samford, 88-67, at Gentile Arena last season.

Brief Preview:Friday night’s matchup is between a pair of teams that have won 50 and 46 games, respectively, the past two years. The Ramblers followed up an 18-14 record in 2016-17 with 32 wins and a Final Four last season, while Furman is coming off back-to-back 23-win seasons, which included a regular-season Southern Conference title in 2016-17.

Furman travels to Loyola-Chicago to meet what will be one of several tests during the non-conference schedule, and it will be the first of two Final Four participants from last season that the Paladins will face during the non-conference slate. The Paladins will take on reigning national champion Villanova on Nov. 19.
The Paladins will offer the Ramblers more of a test than UMKC did in the opener, and for Furman, it will be a huge step-up in class than what the Paladins got from non-Division I Bob Jones in the opener.

Both the Paladins and Ramblers got huge wins, only Loyola’s victory came over another Division I foe, as it downed the Kangaroos 76-45, while the Paladins downed the Bruins 102-48. Loyola enters the contest having won eight-straight games at Gentile Arena, and won a school-record 14 games on its home court last season.

The Ramblers are again one of the top teams in mid-major basketball, with an inside-outside game that could rival anyone in college basketball. In the backcourt, the Ramblers rely on the veteran leadership of senior point guard Clayton Custer (9 pts, 3 asts, 3 stls vs. UMKC), who was a big reason the Ramblers were able to make the run to the Final Four last year. Custer was the first-ever Ramblers to claim the Larry Bird Award last season, which is given to the top player in the Missouri Valley Conference each season.

Custer sets to tone on both ends of the floor for the Ramblers. as the redshirt senior averaged 13.2 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 4.1 APG and 1.5 SPG last season, starting all 33 games en route to leading Loyola to its first Final Four appearance since 1963. He connected on a blistering 45.1% from three-point range this season (60-for-133), while draining 52.8% (160-of-303) of his shots from the field last season. He will be one of the most intelligent, poised and well-rounded guards the Paladins will face this season.

Custer will team with senior wing guard Marques Townes (13 pts, 4 asts, 3 rebs vs. UMKC) and talented sophomore guard Lucas Williamson (5 pts, 9 rebs, 3 asts, 2 stls, 1 blk vs UMKC). Williamson is coming off a season which saw him honored as a part of the MVC All-Freshman Team and All-MVC bench team. The trio of guards will present one of Furman’s biggest challenges of the non-conference slate, due in large part to the experience of both Townes and Custer.

Freshman guard Cooper Kaifes, had quite the college debut, leading three Ramblers in double figures off the bench in the season opener vs. UMKC, with 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field, including going 5-for-7 from three-point range. He also added a pair of boards to his overall stat line.

The low-post tandem of 6-9 center Cameron Krutwig (10 rebs, 6 rebs, 1 ast) and 6-7 forward Aher Uguak (8 pts, 5 rebs, 2 asts). Krutwig is another savvy player, who uses his body well, knows how to draw fouls and get to the line as well as being a very skilled passer, and possesses a variety of different low post moves.

Furman counters with three new starters, but still have three players that have been part of the 46 wins the previous two seasons, with senior guard Andrew Brown (6 pts, 3 rebs vs. Bob Jones) and junior guard Jordan Lyons (career-high 23 points vs. Bob Jones) both back in the mix, while senior forward Matt Rafferty (career-high 24 pts vs. Bob Jones) was a preseason First-Team All-SoCon selection. For Rafferty, who hails from the suburbs of Chicago, it will be a homecoming.

In addition to his career-high 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the field, Rafferty added eight boards, five assists, a block and a steal. It was just the kind of start to the season you’d expect for a player of his caliber, and one now expected to carry much of the scoring load for the Paladins this season.

The Paladins will need a big seaso for this trio after having lost 42 points to graduation, including the team’s top defender, in Daniel Fowler, and 2017 SoCon Player of the Year and last season’s leading scorer, Devin Sibley, to graduation. The Paladins lost most in the backcourt, with Sibley, Fowler and John Davis III as starters from the backcourt. Lyons started the final eight games last season for the Paladins, so he comes into the season with some experience.

Lyons, a prolific scorer and three-point shooter, opened the season with a career-high 23 points, with 21 of those points on seven triples. He was part of a backcourt, which included starters Alex Hunter (7 pts, 3 assists, 2 rebs, 1 steal vs. Bob Jones) and Brown, who committed a school-record low three turnovers in the first game of the season as a collective backcourt in somewhat of a new era for Furman basketball.

One of the top newcomers for the Paladins in the backcourt and a player worth keeping an eye on this season in the Furman backcourt is Mike Bothwell (11 pts, 1 ast, 2 stls vs Bob Jones). He has shown tremendous and an unflappable demeanor uncanny for a freshman guard in the season opener as well as the two scrimmages prior to the season opener.

“You know as we always talk about we always want good people in our program and when we started recruiting Mike that was the first thing you heard about him and what an unbelievable individual he is and what we started noticing about him once we started to getting to know him is how magnetic his personality was and just how poised he is and he reminded us a lot of Daniel Fowler when we recruited Daniel and he kind of plays with that same type presence and things don’t seem to phase him and he doesn’t really get bothered and he’s a joy to be around,” said Furman head coach Bob Richey.

Can the Paladins keep this game close? The simple answer is yes. The Paladins have depth and defend well enough to stick around awhile.

“We will be dealing with a team that’s very well-coached and very unselfish. They’ve got an elite point guard, an elite (No.) five man and really good pieces around them,” Furman head coach Bob Richey said.

“They didn’t just accidentally fall into the Final Four. It’s going to be tough, but this group’s up for the challenge.”

Who Wins:
Loyola-Chicago’s experience and talent will be the ultimate difference in this contest, but expect the Paladins to at least make things interesting for far later into the game than most of the experts think.

Loyola-Chicago 77, Furman 68

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