After the first session of the First Round of the SoCon Tournament ended I couldn't get out of the Asheville Civic Center soon enough. While my main reason for being in Asheville was all the basketball games I'd be attending, there was another part of Asheville that I wanted to see. The two hour break between sessions gave me ample time to walk around downtown and check out some of the brewbups in the city center.
Asheville has been dubbed "Beer City USA" and while I got to try some of the local brews in the previous days, this break was the highlighted time of my beer drinking adventure. As I've stated before, I run a happy hour website for Myrtle Beach and the surrounding areas. In the past six plus years of running it I've been to hundreds of bars and restaurants, so when I get to go to a new city I like to check out the bar scene.
I had done some research ahead of time and saw the Thirsty Monk was a good spot. It was a short walk from the Civic Center so that would be a good place to start. I was pleased with the large beer selection on tap and looked over the menu. I needed something to boost my mood and wake me up. I went for the baked mac and cheese. The ultimate comfort food paired with a frosty beverage was just what I needed to recharge my batteries.
I couldn't just stay at one place though as I love to bounce around to a few spots when I go out. I noticed another bar across the street, so I walked over to Jack of the Wood. It was around 4:30 and the place was packed with a blues band playing on the stage. This was weird for me to see, but after talking with an Asheville native, this was common amongst many places downtown. This city couldn't be any more different than Myrtle Beach which is filled with sports bars, chains, clubs, biker bars, and dives. It was refreshing to see a different bar scene.
I was able to catch one more bar before the next game started and was in much better spirits than when I had left the Civic Center two hours previous. Furman and Samford would be the next tilt and I had seen each once before this season. I saw Samford lose in final seconds to UNC-Greensboro while I watched the Paladins drop a game against UNC-Wilmington in December.
The winner would move on and have the daunting task of having to face Davidson in the next round. Samford was one of two SoCon teams to beat Davidson on the year and they had won their only meeting with the Paladins so I figured the Bulldogs would be favored.
The teams came out at a pretty quick pace and both were playing well offensively. Furman was getting plenty of looks from behind the arc had an early small advantage. Samford was being carried by Drew Windler early, but long distance shots from Connor Miller and Tyler Hood gave the lead to Samford at 23-21.
I noticed that while Samford had brought their band, they only had about 15 fans rooting them on behind their bench. That's understandable since it is a six hour trip to Samford. Conversely, Furman had plenty of fans around, but the band was nowhere to be found. I questioned why the FU band wasn't able to make the hour trip even though SU was able to make a long journey.
FU made a small spurt towards the end of the half to get a six point lead. Shortly thereafter the FU band entered, so maybe they had travel troubles, but it would be a shame if they drove up here only to stay for an hour if the Paladins couldn't hold on.
Furman came out of the second half gates hot as Brandon Sebirumbi and Bobby Austin made jumpers in under a minute. Samford called a quick timeout, but Sebirumbi nailed a 3 and FU was out to a 13-point lead. The defense on both teams decided to take a break for a 5 minute stretch when the teams were trading baskets. SU couldn't gain on the Paladins until FU was up 64-50. Furman went on a dry spell and Samford had the lead down to 6.
I was hoping this game would go down to the final minute, but FU was able to knock down a few shots to get out of their shooting slump. Samford got as close as four and while they had opportunities to get even closer, they couldn't make the necessary shots to get things done.
All things pointed to a Samford victory, but Furman had other ideas and got the 1st round win. They were able to survive another day and one day is all they would last as Davidson sent FU home with a 20-point loss.
FURMAN 75, SAMFORD 66 03/02/2012
FURMAN 15-15 (8-10) -- J. Loyd 3-10 1-3 7; B. Sebirumbi 5-7 2-4 12; B. Austin 4-9 5-5 15; B. Irwin 3-7 2-3 8; C. Reddick 3-7 6-6 15; B. Barnes 3-6 1-2 7; D. Brown 2-5 2-2 8; C. Toler 0-2 0-0 0; D. Early 1-3 0-0 3; C. Reddick 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-56 19-25 75. SAMFORD 11-19 (8-10) -- J. Merritt 4-12 0-0 8; T. Hood 6-10 0-2 13; D. Windler 8-12 5-7 21; R. Kelly 4-10 2-2 10; C. Miller 2-4 2-4 7; W. Cook 1-4 1-2 3; M. Friday 0-1 0-0 0; B. Hayman 2-3 0-0 4; K. Johnson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-56 10-17 66.
Three-point goals: FURM 8-26 (B. Austin 2-4; B. Barnes 0-1; B. Irwin 0-3; C. Reddick 3-6; J. Loyd 0-5; D. Brown 2-4; D. Early 1-3), SAMF 2-20 (J. Merritt 0-3; D. Windler 0-3; W. Cook 0-2; T. Hood 1-5; R. Kelly 0-5; C. Miller 1-2); Rebounds: FURM 35 (B. Sebirumbi 7), SAMF 22 (J. Merritt 8); Assists: FURM 9 (J. Loyd 4), SAMF 10 (C. Miller 3); Total Fouls -- FURM 14, SAMF 20; Fouled Out: FURM-None; SAMF-None.