By David Coulson
College Sports Journal
BOONE, N.C. — The lack of attention to the little things cost Appalachian State big in a 79-70 men’s basketball loss to Furman before 1,090 spectators at the Holmes Convocation Center Tuesday night.
Forward Matt Rafferty, a 6-foot-8 freshman who came off the bench, tallied all of his team-high 19 points in the second half as the Paladins (2-0) out-battled the Mountaineers (1-1) for the non-conference victory.
Rafferty repeatedly exploited foul-plagued Appalachian on the interior, going 5-of-8 from the field and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line to keep the Mountaineers at bay.
With ASU post player Griffin Kinney saddled with four fouls, Rafferty took advantage of backup Jacob Lawson to keep Furman comfortably in front down the stretch and his clutch free-throwing offset several late runs by the Mountaineers.
“Our guys have to learn to respect the little things in this game,” said App State’s second-year coach Jim Fox. “When you make mental mistakes over and over, it hurts.”
Coming off a solid 76-68 win over Jacksonville in the regular-season opener Saturday afternoon at home, the Mountaineers hopes to build from that success.
But instead, Appalachian struggled to find any rhythm against its former Southern Conference rival, which also beat the Mountaineers 84-65 last season in Greenville, S.C.
“We just scraped every time they made a run, we fought back and made big plays,” Furman coach Niko Medved said. “I think you’re seeing this team carry over what they did at the end of last season (when Furman reached the championship game of the SoCon tournament).”
A lay-in by senior guard Chris Burgess, who’s scored 17 points as he went 7-of-10 from the field and 3-of-4 on three-pointers with his clutching shooting, gave App State its last lead at 36-35 with 17:11 remaining, but Furman gradually pulled away from there.
The Paladins extended their advantage to 61-49 with 7:15 left on Daniel Fowler’s fast-break score and gutted it out from there.
“We didn’t pick up loose balls,” said Burgess. “There were too many second-chance points.”
Appalachian made it a one-possession game twice in the late going.
Kinney grabbed a key defensive rebound on one end of the floor and then worked hard on the inside to earn two made free throws that cut Furman’s edge to 64-61 with 3:07 remaining.
But Kinney, who played just 20 minutes and managed but four points and six rebounds, fouled out moments later when Appalachian failed to secure a defensive rebound after three missed Paladin shots.
Devin Sibley converted one of two free throws to make it a four-point lead again for Furman, but senior guard Frank Eaves (game-high 20 points) answered with a pair of free throws on the other end as the Mountaineers moved to within two points at 65-63 with 2:31 on the clock.
That was as close as Appalachian got to a comeback, however.
Fowler (10 points) and Sibley (18 points) nailed momentum-killing treys in the final minutes and the Paladins were 8-of-8 on free throws during the crunch, four of them coming from Rafferty.
“Guys like that make me a better coach,” Medved said of Rafferty. “He’s a really exciting freshman and really stepped up.”
Kendrec Ferrara helped Furman get off to a solid start, matching Sibley with nine first-half points as the Paladins took a 32-29 lead to the locker room. Ferrara finished with 12 points.
Appalachian State shot only 37.9% in the first half and finished at 42.3% for the game. The Mountaineers were also beaten on the boards, 39-36, and made 14 turnovers.
“They did everything we didn’t do,” said Eaves, who suffered through a shooting line of 4-of-18 from the field and 4-of-13 from three-point range, though he was 8-of-12 from the charity stripe. “A major part (of the loss) was details we didn’t pay attention to.”
The Mountaineers won’t play again at home until a Dec. 19 matchup with UNC-Charlotte at 2 p.m., a stretch that will include seven games on the road, including a Dec. 6 game at Madison Square Garden in New York City against Hofstra and a Dec. 15 date at Texas.
Appalachian also plays at Hampton on Friday and Tulane on Sunday and faces Liberty, Mercer and Stephen F. Austin in the Challenge in Music City tournament in Nashville from Nov. 26-29.