Coming off a win in their season opener, App State (1-1) struggled against former SoCon rival Furman (2-0) on Tuesday night as they fell 79-70 in a close, but mistake-laden game.
Furman started hot right out of the gate as they took a very early lead with the Mountaineers going through a two and a half and a three minute scoring drought, which put them in a 17-9 hole.
Senior guard Frank Eaves, who struggled in the opener Saturday, regained some shooting form as he hit a 3-pointer to ignite a 12-3 Mountaineer run, bringing them back to tie the game with two minutes to play in the first half.
Furman continued to hold on the lead and led App State 32-29 at halftime. App State only shot 37.9 percent from the field and struggled at the line, shooting a mere 20 percent.
“They made their free throws and we didn’t shoot well from the line in the first half,” senior guard Chris Burgess said.
Mistakes defined the second half for the Mountaineers. App State took a 36-35 lead with 17 minutes to play, but that would be the last lead for the Apps as they scored on only one of their next five shots and let Furman get hot from the 3-point line.
“We were specifically told not to leave shooters open and we didn’t pay close enough attention,” said Eaves, who led all scorers with 20 points.
Furman freshman Matt Rafferty came out of nowhere to begin single-handedly beating the Mountaineers with 19 second half points. Rafferty shot five for six from the field and nine for 10 from the free throw line.
“We were told we have to body down on him because he will be trying to score in the post,” Eaves said. “He made some big plays and finished around the basket.”
Sophomore forward Griffin Kinney fell into foul trouble late in the game picking up four fouls, which hurt the Mountaineers on the defensive side.
“It’s a big impact. Griffin brings a lot of energy for our post but we have a deep team and other guys should step up,” Burgess said.
Furman took their largest lead of the game, 61-49, with seven minutes to play. App State brought the lead back within two points with 1.5 minutes to play, but poor defense in the paint and open 3-pointers helped Furman fend off the Mountaineers.
“I don’t know if we were really ever in the game, but you work your way all the way back and then we make mental errors and give them open threes,” head coach Jim Fox said.
Fox felt the team did not pay attention to little things in the game and it hurt them in the end.
“Our guys have to learn to respect the little things and details. They have to learn to be focused and we have a long way to go,” Fox said. “Our team was exposed in a lot of ways today.”
With the Mountaineers now heading on the road for the next month, Fox thinks it will be good to help them learn and be ready for conference play.
“It is a process you have to believe in and we have to execute on it,” Fox said. “We are going to get better and today we took a step back, but we will learn over the next two months before we go into Sun Belt play.”
The Mountaineers will look to bounce back later this week as travel to play Hampton on Friday at 6 p.m.
Story by: Jason Huber, Sports Reporter