Another early deficit. Another big run. Another rout of a military school.
Furman used a 17-0 first half run to take command of rival The Citadel and the Paladins went on to a 107-67 win at Timmons Arena Thursday night. The victory comes on the heels of an 87-57 win Saturday at VMI in which Furman rallied from an nine-point deficit with a 29-0 run.
The Paladins (11-4, 2-0 Southern Conference) had a single-game record 31 assists in winning for the 18th time in their last 19 SoCon home games. After missing its first six 3-pointers, Furman ended up with 17 to tie the school record for the most against a Division I opponent. It was the highest point total for the Paladins in SoCon play since a 107-75 win over VMI at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium on Feb. 18, 1980.
"On Saturday, we came out a little bit slow in our intensity, but in this game we were erratic early. The whole message going into this game was it was going to be simplicity vs. chaos," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "Early, it was chaos. ... Once we settled in on both sides of the ball, you saw a little bit more of what we're accustomed to.
"The assists record is a credit to the kids we have, how connected they are, and how much they care about each other."
On Thursday, Furman trailed 14-6 just over six minutes into the game. The Paladins got back in it and there was a stretch of seven lead changes. But with Furman down 30-29 and 5:55 left in the first half, Jordan Lyons was fouled on a 3-point attempt. Lyons sank all three free throws and that was the last lead change of the night.
Devin Sibley had a layup to put Furman up 34-30. Fourteen seconds later, another Sibley layup. Thirty seconds later, Lyons drained a 3-pointer. Seventeen seconds later, another Lyons 3-pointer and suddenly Furman led 42-30.
It was part of 17 consecutive points for Furman. Andrew Brown's buzzer-beating 3-pointer capped what was a 27-3 run over the final 5:55 of the first half and the Paladins led 56-33 at the break. Furman held the Bulldogs to 0-for-4 shooting from the floor and forced six turnovers over the final 6:17 of the half.
"Our ability to guard, our willingness to move the ball and make shots - I think that's a formula for putting up quick points," Richey said. "Can't make runs if the other team is scoring, so they always start on the defensive end of the floor."
After seeing a 27-point halftime lead cut to three last year in Charleston, there was no let up after halftime for Furman Thursday. The Paladins led by as many as 41 points in the second half.
While Furman had only one fewer turnover that Citadel's 18, the Paladins had a 26-6 advantage in points off turnovers. Even though they hit 17 3-pointers, the Paladins also had a 44-20 edge in points in the paint.
"When we started to turn them over a little more, we were able to get out and run in our transition offense," said Matt Rafferty, who had 10 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and two blocked shots. "We got some easy buckets, which got us going. We started hitting some 3's after that."
Sibley led five Paladins in double figures with 26 points, to go along with 10 rebounds and five assists. Sibley moved into 12th place on Furman's all-time scoring list with 1,609 career points. Jordan Lyons had a career-high 20 points off the bench. Andrew Brown had 12 points and six assists. Matt Rafferty had 10 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and two blocked shots.
"What makes it even better is that everybody's improved from last year," Sibley said. "Even our shooters from last year, like Jordan Lyons. That makes it easier for everybody to play off each other."
Quayson Williams had 15 points to lead the Bulldogs (5-9, 0-2).
• Prior to the men's game, the Furman women's team gritted out a 45-41 win over Samford. Cierra Carter scored a game-high 19 points, including 14 in the second half to lead the Paladins (10-5, 1-0 SoCon).
The win improved Furman to 7-0 at home this season heading into Saturday's showdown against reigning SoCon regular season champion Mercer. The women's game will be the first part of a doubleheader again beginning at 2 p.m., with the Furman and Mercer men to follow at approximately 4:30 p.m.
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