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WBB-FCS: Furman Paladins (10-16) at East Tennessee State Buccaneers (20-7)

Fresh off dismantling Wofford on Thursday night, the ETSU women’s basketball team is set to face Furman on Saturday afternoon in its final regular season home game. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. inside Brooks Gym.

Saturday is Senior Day as the Bucs will honor graduate guard Jiselle Thomas (Norwalk, Ohio) with a pregame recognition. In her one season with the Bucs, Thomas has totaled 411 points, 134 rebounds, 53 assists, 21 steals and eight blocks in 27 games (26 starts).

For her career, Thomas has totaled 1,406 points, 469 rebounds, 206 assists, 124 steals and 32 blocks in 114 games played (62 starts) between her time at High Point, Florida International, Temple and ETSU.

MATCHUP INFO

Saturday, February 18, 2023 – East Tennessee State vs. Furman

Time: 2:00 p.m.

Location: Johnson City, Tenn.

Venue: Brooks Gym

ABOUT THE BUCS

ETSU enters the weekend with an overall record of 20-7 and a 7-4 mark in SoCon action.

The Blue & Gold are coming off a historic night on Thursday where ETSU throttled Wofford, 83-45, behind a school-record 16 made three-pointers. The previous record of 15 was set back in ETSU’s last NCAA Tournament appearance in 2010 against Xavier. ETSU also netted 15 threes against North Florida in 2006. Entering Thursday night, ETSU was averaging six made threes per game.

Paris McCarthy (Castleisland, Ireland) broke the record with a three-pointer at the 1:04 mark of the fourth quarter. Local product Sarah Thompson (Gate City, Va.) knocked down four triples of her own to finish with a career-high 17 points.

In addition to the barrage of threes going down inside Brooks Gym, the Bucs notched their 20th win of the season on Thursday night, becoming the ninth team in program history to reach the 20-win mark.

The Bucs will be looking to win their home regular season finale for the first time since the 2019-20 season when ETSU defeated Mercer, 56-54. This is the second straight year the Bucs are playing Furman in their home finale.

ETSU broke the school record last week for best win improvement from season-to-season, going from six wins last season to 20 already this season. The 14-win improvement broke the previous school record of 12 set in the 2014-15 season.

ETSU is also three wins away from tying the all-time school record for single season wins, set in 2009-10 with a 23-9 record. That season is also tied with two others for the fewest losses in a season all-time (since expanding the schedule to over 15 games in 1974-75). There are three regular season games remaining.

ETSU has enjoyed nation’s current best turnaround this season under first year Buccaneer head coach Brenda Mock Brown. Coach Mock also had one of the most storied turnarounds of all-time at UNC Asheville in 2016, improving by 16 games to rank fifth all-time in NCAA D1 Women’s Basketball history.

ETSU’s 14-win improvement ranks atop the nation ahead of both Illinois and UIC at 12 games, followed by Virginia with a 10-win improvement. Last year’s most improved team was LSU with a 12-game improvement (17 more wins with 10 more opportunities).

Since the start of the program in 1968, ETSU has never had a season that brought four separate four-game win streaks (or longer). ETSU enjoyed two four-game win streaks to start 8-2 overall, then had a five-game win streak to improve to 13-3. The most recent win streak of four brought ETSU’s record to 17-6. The last time ETSU had three such streaks was the 2014-15 season that produced a 21-12 overall record. Another win this weekend would make it five such win streaks.

For the last nine weeks, ETSU has either received votes or been ranked in the College Insider Women’s Mid-Major Top 25 Poll. This week, the Bucs were outside the Top 25 but received 21 votes to sit six spots out.

The Bucs finished non-conference play with a 13-3 record — the best non-conference finish in modern era program history. That era began when the SoCon began sponsoring a women’s basketball championship in 1983-84 — the same season ETSU finished with 11 non-conference wins.

The Bucs are averaging 62.8 points per game, while ranking 11th in the nation with just 54.3 points allowed per game. The Bucs also rank 22nd in the nation in offensive rebounding with 14.7 per game.

Graduate guard Jiselle Thomas (Norwalk, Ohio) leads the Bucs with 15.2 points per game to rank sixth in the league. She has scored in double figures in 22 of her 27 games. She also has five games where she scored 20 or more points, and ETSU is 5-0 in those games.

This season, ETSU in on track for its first winning campaign since 2018, where the team finished 20-13 overall, 11-3 in the SoCon and made an appearance in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT). ETSU has made three NCAA tournament appearances all-time (2008, 2009, 2010) and four WNIT appearances (1995, 2006, 2015, 2018).

ABOUT THE PALADINS

Furman sits at 10-16 overall and 2-9 in SoCon play.

The Paladins have dropped their last two contests, most-recently falling at Chattanooga Thursday night, 70-63.

Sydney Ryan and Ella Riggs each scored 15 points in the loss to the Mocs on Thursday.

The Paladins are led by Grace van Rij as she’s averaging 13.2 points and 6.5 rebounds, while shooting 53 percent from the field and 72 percent at the free throw line. The xxx ranks ninth in the SoCon in scoring, sixth in rebounding, third in field goal percentage, blocked shots (1.0) and offensive rebounds (3.3).

Jaelyn Acker is the only other Paladin player to be averaging double figures in scoring as she’s posting 11.1 points per game. Acker leads the team in made threes with 49.

Seven of Furman’s 10 wins this season have come at home, while the Paladins have dropped 10 of their 13 on the road. Furman’s last road win came on Jan. 14 when they won at Western Carolina, 60-46. The other two Paladin road wins this season came at UNC Asheville (65-64) and Presbyterian (67-60).

As a team, Furman ranks third in the SoCon in scoring defense (63.4) and fourth in scoring offense (63.6). The Paladins do feature the league’s best three-point shooting defense as they are holding opponents to 27 percent shooting from beyond the arc, along with the best rebound team in the SoCon with a +7.4 rebounding margin. Furman also leads the league in offensive rebounds per game (17.0) and offensive rebound percentage (.430).

The Paladins are led by Jackie Carson, who is in her 13th season at Furman, and recorded her 200th career win earlier this season at UNCA.

SERIES HISTORY

Saturday marks the 71st all-time matchup in the series, making Furman the fourth-most-frequent rival for ETSU.

Furman leads the all-time series, 46-23, but the Bucs are looking for the season sweep after defeating the Paladins 64-56 back in January. The win in Greenville was ETSU’s first over Furman since Jan. 18, 2018.

The last time ETSU swept the regular season series over Furman was in that 2017-18 season.

The Bucs’ all-time record for most points scored (114) and most combined points (203) both came in a game against the Paladins in 1987, as ETSU defeated Furman by a final of 114-89.

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