Samford's season ends with 55-51 loss to Furman in SoCon Tournament

Samford's Tim Williams led the Bulldogs in scoring with 15 points in the loss to Furman Friday night. (Photo courtesy of Samford Athletics)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- The Samford University basketball team's 2012-13 season came to an end Friday as the Bulldogs suffered a 55-51 loss to the Furman Paladins in the opening round of the Southern Conference Tournament held at the U.S. Cellular Center.{}"This was a tough game to lose today," said Samford head coach Bennie Seltzer. "It's really tough when you lose the rebounding battle by 10 and your best player on the team (Raijon Kelly) goes 1-for-13 from the field. The bottom line is that we currently don't have a good enough team to where we can overcome that."{}With the loss, Samford (11-21) fell to Furman (7-23) in the first round of SoCon Tournament play for the third straight season. The Bulldogs moved to 4-10 all-time against the Paladins and 1-3 when squaring off in postseason play.{}Samford led by as many as six points in the first half, but Furman fought back to even the score at 25-25 at the intermission. The Bulldogs and Paladins battled back and forth in the second half of play, but it was Samford that took a 39-35 lead with 11:51 remaining following a layup from Clide Geffrard, Jr.{}Midway through the final half, Furman answered Geffrard, Jr.'s layup with a jumper from Bobby Austin and 3-point play by Kendrec Ferrera. The Paladins then used the momentum to go on a 14-5 run, which gave Furman a 49-44 advantage with 6:09 left to play.{}Samford rallied back down the stretch and trimmed the Paladins' lead to 52-51 with just over a minute remaining in the game. During the Bulldogs' late run, Tim Williams scored four points and Tyler Hood knocked down a pair of free throws.{}"Defensively, I thought we made some good plays," Seltzer said. "I thought that we got some key stops at certain times, but it was just a tough day for the Bulldogs."{}With 30 seconds remaining in Friday's contest, Samford trailed by a point, 52-51, but had possession of the ball. On the Bulldogs' ensuing play, Raijon Kelly fed a pass inside to Hood on the left block. Hood took a couple of dribbles to his left and tried to find Connor Miller on the right wing for a 3-point basket.{}On Hood's pass, a Furman defender was able to get a finger on it and the Paladins' Stephen Croone came up with the steal. Croone then made one of two free throws to give his squad a 53-51 advantage with 26 seconds left to play.{}Samford then took possession off the missed free throw and Kelly drove the ball down the right side of the lane. The Bulldogs' All-SoCon performer from St. Paul, Minn., looked as if he was fouled on the six-foot runner, but his shot came up short and Bobby Austin came up with the rebound.{}Samford's Hood was forced to foul Austin and the Paladins' senior was able to hit both free throws to put the game out of reach at 55-51.{}"I've heard a lot all season about how surprised people are about what we've done this year, but personally, I'm not," said Seltzer. "I'm with those guys every single day and they work their tails off. We won nine games in the SoCon and overall we lost four overtime games and a number of close decisions by one, two and three points. The success that we had this year, the success that everyone else is so surprised about, we weren't surprised at all.{}"Quite frankly, we should have won a lot more games this season. I don't know why everyone seemed to be so surprised by Samford winning nine games in this league. We think we should have won more. We need to continue to get better and that's what we'll do."{}Austin, Furman's native of Cincinnati, Ohio, finished with a game-high 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field. He also knocked down all five of free-throw attempts. Heading into Friday's game, Austin was only averaging 6.8 points per contest this season.{}Along with Austin's 17 points, Croone was the only other Paladin to reach double figures in scoring with 11.{}"There were a lot of big moments in the game where we missed out on key plays," Seltzer said. "There were times when we didn't come up with a loose ball here, or a loose ball there, or didn't grab a key rebound, or get a big stop, so those plays in a game this close really hurt when you look back at them."{}Samford finished with three players scoring in double figures, but only received two points from its bench Friday.{}Williams, the Bulldogs' SoCon Freshman of the Year, paced Samford with 15 points and six rebounds, while Hood finished with 13 and Geffrard, Jr., chipped in with 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field.{}Samford finished the game with a 40-percent performance from the field and a 28.6-percent mark from 3-point range (6-of-21). The Bulldogs only turned the ball over five times as a team, but were out-rebounded by Furman, 34-24.{}The Paladins turned in a 39.5 shooting percent from the floor and a 38.9 mark from beyond the arc.{}"Throughout this season, we've never tried to rely on our offense to win games," said Seltzer. "But, you think that when your opponent only shoots 39 percent from the field, then that's a recipe for winning."{}At the half, Samford and Furman were knotted at 25-25. The Bulldogs shot 40 percent from the field in the opening period and were led in scoring by seven points from Geffrard, Jr. Samford's Hood and Miller both added six points apiece in the opening 20 minute of play by knocking down two 3-pointers each.{}Furman shot a sizzling 55.6 percent from 3-point range in the first half and were led offensively by both Austin and Bryant Irwin. The Paladins' tandem scored six points each and went a combined 3-for-3 from beyond the arc.{}Despite Friday's loss, the future looks extremely bright for the Samford basketball team. The Bulldogs return all five starters next season, as well as additional letterwinners in Brandon Hayman, Russell Wilson, Tony Thompson, Hamilton Bailey, Mike Fitzpatrick and Jaylen Beckham.