No. 24 Furman faces big test vs. LSU
If Furman wants to remain in the Top 25, it will have to pass its biggest remaining test of the regular season -- against another power-conference opponent.
The No. 24 Paladins, who hold a November victory over defending champion Villanova, play LSU on Friday night in Baton Rouge, La.
Senior forward Matt Rafferty, 12-0 Furman's second-leading scorer, said his team's resume, which includes a win over another 2018 Final Four team, Loyola-Chicago, should be enough to convince critics.
"If they don't see it yet, I don't know what will change their minds," Rafferty told the Greenville (S.C.) News.
"It's a great opportunity for us, of course."
LSU (8-3) is 6-0 and averaging 81 points a game at home this season. The Tigers beat UNC Greensboro, likely Furman's chief rival in the Southern Conference, 97-91 in Baton Rouge in early November.
"LSU is really, really good," Paladins coach Bob Richey said. "They're really athletic.
"I've known (LSU coach) Will (Wade) a long time. He's a phenomenal basketball coach. His team's going to play really, really hard. They're going to get out, and they're athletic and they're long. It's going to be a great challenge."
Furman, which has been in the Top 25 the past three weeks, played with some jitters in its first couple outings as a ranked team. Not so on Saturday, when the Paladins touted UNC Wilmington 94-50.
"I think we're all excited," Rafferty said. "We know our potential and what we can do: compete with the biggest teams out there."
Rafferty was selected as the Southern Conference player of the week after combining for 27 points and 25 rebounds in Furman's two wins last week.
Friday's game is a rarity for the Tigers.
It's not often they host a Top 25 team before SEC play begins.
"To get an opportunity to play a Top 25 team at home in the non-conference schedule is a big deal," Wade told the (Baton Rouge) Advertiser. "They're a very good team. They are certainly deserving of their Top 25 ranking."
LSU enters the contest off a 78-74 win over Saint Mary's on Saturday night in Las Vegas. Guard Tremont Waters came off the bench to lead the Tigers with 18 points.
Wade joked that he didn't know what he was getting his team into when he agreed with Richey, a New Orleans native, on the matchup.
"I was joking with him the other day and told him I wouldn't have scheduled the game if I knew they'd be this good," Wade said.
Updated December 20, 2018