GREENVILLE, S.C. – Furman claimed the biggest win of its season on Wednesday night, beating South Carolina for the first time in 30 years.
The Paladins beat the Gamecocks 91-75 to improve to 8-2, claiming their first victory over their in-state rival since Feb. 20, 1980. South Carolina dropped to 7-3 and 8-18 on the road under third-year coach Darrin Horn, who is also 0-4 against in-state teams on the road during his tenure.
"I'm just happy for our guys," Furman coach Jeff Jackson said. "I thought the maturity of our team, at times, took over."
Furman used an 8-0 run midway through the second half to extend the lead, after the Gamecocks had narrowed a nine-point halftime deficit to three, and was comfortably in front for the duration. Several three-point plays and 20 overall points from Amu Saaka paced the win, while the Gamecocks always had one turnover or missed rebound to help Furman's cause.
Bruce Ellington led South Carolina with a career-high 31 points and paced the second-half run to get within three by stroking three 3-pointers in four possessions. But coming down with a chance to tie, Ellington tried to pass above the rim to Lakeem Jackson for an attempted alley-oop.
Furman knocked the pass awry, recovered and ran downcourt. Jordan Miller aced a wide-open 3-pointer for a six-point lead and the start of the clinching run.
"It looked like Lakeem might have got hit, actually, but it's one of those things that if it's there, you make it, and if it's not, we got the option to keep going through," Horn said. "We tried to make a play and we didn't."
Justin Dehm helped the Paladins take the halftime lead by swishing all five of his 3-point attempts. He finished with those 15 points while Brandon Sebirumbi matched him with 15. Miller finished with 17.
Brian Richardson scored 15 for South Carolina, while Ramon Galloway had 11. The Gamecocks had fewer turnovers than Furman (17-14), but were outrebounded by a whopping 44-26.
The Gamecocks, starting two freshmen and having five with significant minutes, seemed overwhelmed early by Furman's experience. The Paladins were finding every loose ball and hitting putbacks, led by their inside presence early and their outside prowess late.
Senior center Sam Muldrow, crucial to the Gamecocks' success as the first option on offense, was knocked out of his game early. The big man finished with six points, two rebounds and four fouls.
"When we have games where we don't defend and rebound, and don't get much out of our interior, especially someone as important as Sam Muldrow, it's going to be hard for us to beat good teams," Horn said.
"And this is a good Furman team."
South Carolina is idle until Dec. 29, when it will host Jacksonville State.
Furman is off until the same date, when it will play the host team at the UCF Holiday Classic in Orlando.