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UNCG, Furman to meet in SoCon semifinals
Courtesy: Southern Conference
Release: 03/09/2019
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Furman's Jordan Lyons
Courtesy: Todd Drexler

No. 2 seed UNCG 77, No. 7 seed Samford 70

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Second-seeded UNCG got 31 points from Francis Alonso and overcame a 12-point halftime deficit in a 77-70 win over No. 7 seed Samford on Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Ingles Southern Conference Basketball Championship presented by General Shale at the U.S. Cellular Center.

The Spartans advance to Sunday’s semifinals, where they will meet either No. 3 seed Furman or No. 6 seed Mercer at 6:30 p.m. The contest will air on ESPN+ and select Nexstar affiliates.

Samford led for nearly 33 minutes of the contest, but the defending tournament champion Spartans closed the game on a 22-6 run to avoid what would have been the first upset of this year’s championship. Alonso scored 11 of his points in that game-clinching spurt, including nine straight that put UNCG on top for good. His pair of free throws with 3:58 left made it 67-66 and gave the Spartans their first lead since a 24-23 advantage late in the first half.

The Bulldogs seemed primed for the upset for much of the game, jumping out to a 17-9 lead on the strength of 12 points from freshman forward Robert Allen. UNCG turned it around with a 13-2 run in which Alonso had seven points, but Samford would reclaim the lead and take a 43-31 advantage into the break. Ruben Guerrero had eight of his 16 points in the run.

UNCG chipped away at the deficit in the second half, getting it back into single digits by the first media timeout. The margin hovered between 7-10 points until there was just 6:44 remaining, but Demetrius Troy converted his only 3-point attempt of the day to kickstart the Spartans’ decisive run.

Isaiah Miller joined Alonso in double figures for UNCG, finishing with 13 points. For Samford, Allen finished with 18 points, one off his career high, while Guerrero had 16 points and 12 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season.

No. 2 UNCG (27-5) | No. 7 Samford (17-16)

3 Notes to Know
- With its 27th win of the season, UNCG matched the school record for wins set last season.
- Samford finished its season with a winning record for the second time in three years.
- UNCG’s Isaiah Miller had two steals to push his season total to 96. He needs just four more for the first 100-steal season in UNCG history and just the second in SoCon history.

3 Stats to Know
- UNCG’s Francis Alonso was 13-for-14 from the free-throw line in the game. He has now hit exactly 400 free throws in his career and is sixth in SoCon history with a career 87.0 percentage (400-for-460).
- Samford’s Ruben Guerrero was 8-for-9 (88.9 percent) from the floor on the day.
- UNCG attempted more than twice as many free throws as did Samford. The Spartans were 23-for-30 (76.7 percent), while Samford was 12-for-14 (86.7 percent).

No. 3 seed Furman 85, No. 6 seed Mercer 74

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – No. 3 Furman used a strong second-half surge to shoot past Mercer 85-74 in the Ingles Southern Conference Championship presented by General Shale quarterfinals. The 11-point final margin belies the closeness of a game that featured 10 lead changes.

Eight of those came in the first five minutes of the second half. A 3-pointer from Clay Mounce and two free throws by Matt Rafferty gave the Paladins a four-point advantage, 51-47. Jaylen Stowe cut it back two with a layup on the next Mercer possession, but then it was all Paladins.

Rafferty capped a 12-0 run with a free throw with 11:00 to go. The Paladins were firmly in control with a 14-point advantage, 63-49. The Bears tried to chip away but could not get the defensive stop when they needed it.

The advantage rose to 15 twice on a free throw by Alex Hunter and again on Rafferty’s lay-in at 3:56. Victor Bafutto connected on a three-point play followed by an Ethan Stair layup to get back to 10, 78-68. The Paladins would not be denied with a timely dunk by Tre Clark and Andrew Brown free throws down the stretch to cinch the win.

Jordan Lyons led all scorers with 25 points, hitting seven 3s for the Paladins. Brown added 14 points, eight rebounds and four assists off the bench. Stowe paced the Bears with 16, while Djordje Dimitrijevic registered a strong line of 13 points, three assists and four steals.

Furman moves on to face No. 2 UNCG in Sunday’s second semifinal game. They meet at 6:30 p.m., on Nexstar and ESPN+.

No. 3 Furman (25-6) | No. 6 Mercer (11-20)

3 Notes to Know
- First time since 2013 that the top four seeds all advanced to the semifinals. That was in the Division Era with the top two from the North – Elon and Appalachian State – joined by the South’s Davidson and College of Charleston.
- The top four seeds are 51-1 against the bottom six this year with the lone blemish being a Samford win at Furman.
- The Paladins head to their 27th SoCon tournament semifinal. That ranks No. 1 among current membership ahead of Chattanooga’s 23 and second all-time to Davidson’s 33.

3 Stats to Know
- Furman made 15 3-pointers to Mercer’s four for a 33-point advantage behind the arc. Ties for the third-most for the Paladins this season and is the 17th time in 31 games with 10 or more.
- The Paladins were just +1 in turnover margin with 14 to the Bears’ 15, but they had an eight-point edge in points off turnovers (20-12).
- Mercer had a +14 edge in the paint, 42-28.

2019 Ingles Southern Conference Men’s Basketball Championship presented by General Shale schedule
Friday, March 8 (ESPN+)
Game 1 - (8) VMI 96, (9) Western Carolina 83
Game 2 - (7) Samford 100, (10) The Citadel 71

Saturday, March 9 (ESPN+/Nexstar)
Game 3 - (1) Wofford 99, (8) VMI 72
Game 4 - (4) ETSU 68, (5) Chattanooga 64
Game 5 - (2) UNCG 77, (7) Samford 70
Game 6 - (3) Furman 85, (6) Mercer 74

Sunday, March 10 (ESPN+/Nexstar)
Game 7 - (1) Wofford vs. (4) ETSU, 4 p.m.
Game 8 – (2) UNCG vs. (3) Furman, 6:30 p.m.

Monday, March 11 (ESPN)
Championship game, 7 p.m.

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