Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Furman basketball's transformation: Beans

Furman senior Geoff Beans. Photo courtesy of Furman.
This is part two of a five-part series on how Furman's senior class of Geoff Beans, John Davis III, Daniel Fowler and Devin Sibley became the nucleus of the remarkable turnaround of the men's basketball program.

The Shooter
On Senior Night Feb. 20, Furman had a comfortable 21-point lead as the clock ticked down under a minute to play. However, an important basket had yet to be scored. It was so important that Furman coach Bob Richey didn't care if VMI heard precisely what the Paladins planned on trying to do.

"Get Geoff a shot! Get Geoff a shot," Richey yelled out as Jordan Lyons dribbled the ball up the court to begin one of the final possessions.

Lyons dribbled to his left around Jalen Williams, who screened a VMI defender which freed up Geoff Beans near the top of the key. Lyons zipped a pass to Beans, who launched a long 3-pointer that rattled in with 51 seconds left. As Beans' 172nd career 3-pointer went down, the crowd erupted, the Paladins' bench jumped up and Richey pumped his fist before calling timeout for Beans' curtain call.

After hugs and high-fives from his teammates on the court, Beans saluted the home crowd as he walked off the Timmons Arena court for the last time to more greetings from the coaching staff and bench. After the game, Richey said a made 3-pointer was the only way for Beans to close his home playing career.

That shot was so important to the team because of how important Beans has been to the program. While he hasn't been on the court as much as his fellow three seniors, there's been no more important influence off the court than Beans.

"The key with Geoff is it's always about the program. A lot of people say 'it's always about winning,' but I think this goes a step above that," Richey said. "The other day at ETSU, he got to play two minutes. He was as fired up after that game as anybody in that locker room."

Beans' importance to the program dates back to before he ever put on a Furman uniform. He was the first member of this year's senior class to sign with the Paladins, back in November of 2013. The Toledo, Ohio native chose Furman over Wofford among other schools.

"He was the first one to jump on the boat and he was probably the most highly recruited one of this class," Richey said. "He chose to come here even while being recruited by a team (Wofford) that had already won two SoCon championships up the road.
"He saw something here in our vision, our university and our city that made him want to be a part of this."

For Beans, that thought may continue after his Furman days are over.

"I'm a business major. I'm don't know exactly what I want to go into yet but I'm looking into commercial real estate sales," Beans said. "With all the Furman alumni and connections I've gotten, I think I may end up working in Greenville.
"I just want to be able to continue to watch the younger guys continue to carry on the program."

Beans had an impact as a freshman as he made 18 starts and averaged 7.8 points per game. He hit the first three 3-pointers of his college career against Liberty and followed that game with a 21-point performance against Samford. Beans had a run of five consecutive games scoring in double figures in December that season.

While playing time hasn't been as abundant as it was his freshman year, Beans has provided an offensive threat off the bench as he's shot 35.3 percent on 3-pointers and 81.1 percent on free throws in his career. Defense has also improved for Beans during his time at Furman, and he's drawn some big charges this season.

"Each year has provided its own challenges, but everyone on our team knows that their role may shrink a little because of the depth and talent our team has," Beans said. "In order to be on a championship team people have to be okay with that.
"With us, it's been good because everyone's accepted their role. At the same time, everyone's working as hard as they possibly can to make sure when they get that opportunity in the game they can make the most out of it."

Richey said Beans' senior leadership has been on display at key times behind the scenes. Once came after the Paladins' loss at UNCG.

"The day after the Greensboro game, he was the one in the meeting room that spoke up and said what needed to be said," Richey said. "A lot of times coaches are scared to give players a voice because they don't always align with how they view it or see it. Because of how he values the program, what came out of his mouth that day was 100 percent correct."

Beans' message was heard loud and clear. The next time out, the Paladins defeated Western Carolina 100-66. Beans had nine points in 15 minutes off the bench, two of which came on a rare dunk that thrilled the home crowd.

"People have no idea how important Geoff Beans is to this program. ... His leadership this week has been phenomenal," Richey said in the Western Carolina postgame press conference. "This program is indebted to him in a lot of different ways.
"He doesn't get written about a lot, but I'll tell you this. In 10 years, people are going to know who Geoff Beans is. He's going to have an unbelievable future."

The highlight of Beans' on-court career may have come in the culmination of Furman's run at the SoCon Tournament in his freshman year. After Kris Acox went down with an injury in the championship game against Wofford, Beans came on and scored a team-high 15 points to earn a spot on the All-Tournament team.

While no one could've anticipated what kind of good days were ahead for Furman basketball then, that run obviously was a stepping stone in that positive direction. Beans said one key element came into play in Asheville that year that has been perhaps the most vital part of the Paladins' success since.

"As bad as we were our freshman year, the reason why we were so successful in the tournament is that our defense really showed up," Beans said. "It didn't end how we wanted, but the ending was definitely better than the whole season.
"It's been neat to see how through each year, we've gotten better at something. Freshman year, we were just pretty bad but we ended the year well at the tournament. Sophomore year, we set the home win record for the season. Junior year, we made it a focus to win on the road and we set the school record for that."

As the team prepares for the seniors' last shot at a SoCon championship this weekend in Asheville, Beans will be ready to step up however he may be needed. That's what family members do for each other, and that's what Beans considers his teammates and coaches to be.

"All four years, this has been the closest team I've ever been with by far," Beans said. "We're always hanging out together. That's just how our culture is. It's more than just basketball to us, but I think that helps us out on the court."

Furman fan events at the SoCon Tournament

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Griffith propels Paladins past Gamecocks

No. 9 hitter Sims Griffith smashed a two-run triple to left to snap a seventh-inning tie and Furman went on to a 6-4 win over South Carolina at Founders Park Tuesday. It was the Paladins' first victory in Columbia in 10 years.

The win snapped Furman's four-game losing streak and came on the heels of a weekend sweep at 12th-ranked N.C. State in which the Paladins (4-4) were outscored 28-2.

"It's been a tough four days. You love to learn with wins, but often times you learn more about yourself in some losses," Furman coach Brett Harker said. "We've had one of the hardest schedules in the country, so it's not like you expect to be undefeated at this point. It just felt like we weren't playing very good baseball.
"We really challenged the boys to stay together, believe in themselves, the team and the coaching staff. They come out tonight and just played really good baseball. It felt like we controlled most of that game."

The Paladins scored two runs in the third on a USC error and a sac fly by Jake Crawford. The Gamecocks (6-3) tied the game 2-2 on a Madison Stokes home run in the bottom half of the inning and it stayed that way until the seventh.

Landon Kay led off the seventh with a single and was sacrificed to second. After a walk by Bret Huebner, Griffith drilled a 3-2 pitch over the head of USC leftfielder Carlos Cortes scoring Kay and Huebner. Ben Anderson's sac fly pushed Furman's lead to 5-2.

"That was an unbelievable at-bat (by Griffith). He really squared it up," Harker said. "Sims is a very good defender for us and good at moving runners. He isn't known for burning outfielders, but that's what's beautiful about this game."

With nobody out in the eighth, Cortes hit a two-run homer to cut the lead to 5-4. The Gamecocks' next batter, Stokes, got ahead 2-0 when Harker called on Friday ace starter Grant Schuermann to come on in relief. Schuermann fired three strikes to get Stokes out looking, then needed just five pitches to get a pair of pop outs.

Jabari Richards' third hit of the evening was an RBI-double in the top of the ninth that provided some insurance. Schuermann worked around a one-out single in the bottom half to record his first career save.

"It was his bullpen day and (pitching) Coach (Kaleb) Davis just kind of bounced it off me when it was a tie game in the third or fourth," Harker said. "He got three quick outs in the eighth. ... He came back in the dugout and I said, 'how do you feel?' He said 'great,' and I said, 'well we'll push your start back if we have to, go out and win us a ballgame.'
"Man, did he look good. It was fun having him out there in that situation."

After committing an error in each game this season and totaling 12, Furman made no errors Tuesday. The Paladins also got a solid start from sophomore Trent Alley, who matched a career-high long outing of six innings. Alley (1-0) allowed two runs on four hits and four walks. He struck out three.

"We played really good defense and Crawford made some really good plays at third," Harker said. "Alley still hasn't had his stuff that he's shown us in bullpens, but he's putting up big innings for us. He's got a bright future and some confidence going right now. In this game, that's half the battle.
"He comes from a family where his dad played on a national championship football team at Clemson and his brother is currently a coach on Clemson's football team. So for him to do that against the Gamecocks, I know that was a special night for him and his family."

Furman returns home for a weekend series against Central Connecticut State. Game one is scheduled for Friday at 4 p.m.

Seniors transformed Furman basketball

Furman coach Bob Richey talks to his team. Photo courtesy of Furman.
This is part one of a five-part series on how Furman's senior class of Geoff Beans, John Davis III, Daniel Fowler and Devin Sibley became the nucleus of the remarkable turnaround of the men's basketball program. The rest of the series will focus on each senior's personal Furman story.

Coming off another record-setting season for wins, the Furman men's basketball enters this weekend's Southern Conference Tournament as the No. 3 seed. The Paladins are one of a handful of SoCon teams that would not be a surprise to see cutting down the nets on Monday.

Four years ago, none of this seemed possible. It was four years ago today that the Paladins wrapped up the 2013-14 regular season with a home loss to Georgia Southern. Eight days later, the teams met again in the first round of the SoCon Tournament and Niko Medved's first season as head coach ended with a record of 9-21.

Upon taking the job in April of 2013, it might have been easy for Medved to completely clean house after inheriting a team that went 7-24 this year before. However, Medved's first move was to retain one assistant from the previous staff - Bob Richey. It didn't hurt that Richey was the recruiter and position coach of Stephen Croone, who averaged 9.9 points and 4.0 assists per game as a freshman in 2012-13. Croone, who also broke the school record for assists in a game that season with 14, went on to become the fifth-leading scorer in school history.

After retaining Richey, Medved said, "We are very fortunate that Bob decided to stay at Furman. Bob is a talented young coach and an outstanding recruiter. He has a gift for connecting with people and will be an intricate part of helping Furman basketball reach new heights."

Not only is Medved a heck of a basketball coach, he might also be a psychic.

The latest of those "new heights" came this season in Richey's first year as head coach as Furman set the school record for regular season wins with 22. Last season, it set school records for conference wins (14), road wins (12) and overall wins (23). Two seasons ago, it set the school record for home wins (14), including 11 consecutive.

While players like Croone, Kris Acox, Kendrec Ferrara, Larry Wideman and others helped begin to steer Furman's ship in the right direction, it was this year's senior class of Geoff Beans, John Davis III, Daniel Fowler and Devin Sibley that was the nucleus of the transformation of the program. Despite going 11-22 as freshmen in 2014-15, this year's senior class is the second-winningest in school history with a record of 75-59. Only the senior class of 1980 has more wins at 80-37.

"Their pride in Furman and their desire to be at Furman was so high, so early. That was a critical piece of increasing their development," Richey said. "When they showed they really enjoyed being here and had a mission of what they're trying to do, that's pretty infectious. That really started to get to guys that came in after them and it just kind of grew and grew."

No shoes, no problem
So how did Medved and his staff convince this program-changing class to commit to and sign with a program that had gone 16-45 overall and 6-28 in the SoCon in the two seasons combined before they got to Furman? It goes back to another part of Medved's quote about Richey, "a gift for connecting with people."

That word "connected" has been used by Richey more than any other this season. When the Paladins are at their very best, it's when they're most connected on both ends of the floor. That also meant - and still means - Furman taking a different approach when it comes to recruiting.

"When you're going through a rebuilding situation, the most important thing you have to do is identify the people that you feel like are going to help you in the long-term," Richey said. "First, we had to get great human beings. We had to stay clear of entitlement and guys that just thought talent was going to be enough. We had to get people that were able to connect.
"Evaluate the film second. Evaluate the person first. They both have to check off."

Furman's place in the college basketball landscape also factored in recruiting.

"We had to get off the grid a little bit. We couldn't go sit at the Nike, Adidas or Under Armour tournament. We had to go look for non-shoe AAU teams and the undervalued stock," Richey said. "It was hard. ... We just had to go through a ton of names, a ton of films and keep calling and calling."

In addition to looking at players from under-the-radar AAU teams, Furman coaches also paid attention to the recruits' high school teams. In trying to build a winner, the staff recruited winners.

In their senior years: Beans' high school team went 22-2; Davis' team was ranked No. 1 in Division III in Ohio; Fowler's team went 29-2; Sibley's team went 23-7.

"It was just a group of guys that had low AAU reputations, but winning high school reputations and just very good people from very good support systems," Richey said. "We felt like all four of these guys would come in here and work hard to develop.
"We knew we had to invest in them. They weren't necessarily ready to play as many minutes as they had to play as freshmen."

Growing pains and the run
They may have not been ready as freshmen, but each showed glimpses of what they could do that season.

Beans drained the first three 3-pointers he tried in his collegiate debut against Liberty and scored 21 in the next game against Samford. Davis scored 20 in the regular season finale against Wofford. Fowler started all 33 games that season, averaging 7.8 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, on his way to a Furman-record 125 career starts. Sibley scored at least 20 points five times that season, including a 29-point performance at ETSU, and earned SoCon Freshman of the Year honors.

Fowler and Davis dove head-first into college basketball as they played 34 and 33 minutes, respectively, in the Paladins' 75-40 season-opening loss to the College of Charleston. That was the first of seven losses that season by at least 14 points, including five by at least 25 points. Since Dec. 19, 2015, Furman has just six losses by 14 points or more - only one by more than 19.

As sourly as that season began against Charleston, it nearly ended in storybook fashion. Despite a last-place finish in the SoCon, the Paladins made a magical run to the SoCon Tournament championship before falling to Wofford 67-64. Along with Ferrara, the four freshmen were the players on the court when the final horn sounded that Monday night.

One final chance
Now the seniors have one more shot to try to walk off the U.S. Cellular Center's court on that Monday night as SoCon champions. That path begins in Saturday's quarterfinals when the third-seeded Paladins face No. 6 seed Western Carolina at approximately 8:30 p.m.

Richey hopes his team will use its experiences from the prior three tournaments this weekend. Unlike those seasons, Furman enters this year's tournament on a roll with six consecutive wins. The Paladins will be looking to bounce back from the disappointment of an upset loss to seventh-seeded Samford in last year's quarterfinals.

"You win 21 in the regular season, finish in a three-way tie for first, and for the first time since probably 1990, you go in with any kind of expectation," Richey said of last year's tournament. "I think the combination of that and the fact that we had lost two of the final three in the regular season, we didn't walk onto that court with the confidence we had two weeks prior.
"I think the players would tell you now there was just so much pressure to go win the whole thing. I don't think we were looking past (Samford), we were just looking at the tournament in a cumulative lens. That can really increase pressure."

Having four guys who know what it takes to get to the finals certainly can't hurt Furman's chances this season. While a No. 10 seed should never feel any kind of pressure in postseason conference tournament, Richey would like for his team to somehow find that same feeling this weekend in Asheville.

"The approach we have to take is learn from your freshman year. Go out there and cut loose. Just play the game the right way and fixate on how we play. Don't worry about anything besides possession-by-possession, how can we play to our standard," Richey said. "The second thing is that you've got to go one game at a time. There's nothing you can get done until you beat Western Carolina. We have to have that focus."

This year's tournament will cap what's been an exciting year in a deep, competitive SoCon. Whether the Paladins punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1980 or not, emotions will surely be running high.

"I'm going to miss them like crazy. ... I tell them all the time, 'you guys are going to leave here with a degree in team,' and that's the truth," Richey said. "That will probably carry them more through life than some of the other pieces of their experience here.
"These guys are Furman through and through and it's not just basketball. They love this place and they just wanted to see something great happen here."

Monday, February 26, 2018

Paladins swept at N.C. State

N.C. State racked up 17 hits Sunday to complete a three-game sweep of Furman with a 9-0 win.
The 12th-ranked Wolfpack (7-1) scored in five different innings Sunday and outscored the Paladins 28-2 in the series.

Brock Deatherage and Dillon Cooper each had three hits to lead N.C. State, while David Vazquez had three RBIs. Deatherage, Vazquez and Brett Kinneman homered for the Wolfpack. It was Kinneman's fourth homer of the series as he went deep in each game.

After having just one walk and 18 strikeouts over the first two games, the Paladins (3-4) showed more patience Sunday drawing nine walks. However, Furman had just three hits, struck out 11 times and stranded 11 baserunners.

Freshman Matt Lazzaro (0-1) allowed six runs on 10 hits in four innings to take the loss.

Nolan Clenney (1-0) tossed 3 1/3 hitless innings of relief for N.C. State to get the win.

The tough early-season slate for Furman continues Tuesday when the Paladins play at South Carolina at 4 p.m.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Paladins beat ETSU for sixth consecutive win

Devin Sibley had 17 points to lead Furman to a 79-76
win at ETSU Sunday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - Facing the best team in the Southern Conference at defending the 3-pointer, Furman hit 10-of-20 Sunday including some critical ones down the stretch as the Paladins beat ETSU 79-76. The Bucs' Devontavius Payne had a good look on a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it bounced away no good as the Paladins held on for the win in front of a packed house of 5,908 fans.

With the win, Furman (22-9, 13-5) wrapped up a third-place finish in the SoCon. The Paladins will play No. 6 seed Western Carolina in the quarterfinals of the SoCon Tournament next Saturday in Asheville at approximately 8:30 p.m. Furman had 100-66 and 76-54 wins over Western this season.

"They (Furman) just answered every bell tonight and just had the 'next play' mentality. It's not about being perfect, you've just got to get to the next play. We're going to have to do that same thing in Asheville," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "All they're going to hear about is how much better they are than Western. I promise you, Western's going to have five or six days to get ready for this game and it's going to be a knockdown drag out."

The game featured eight ties and 13 lead changes, but the Paladins matched their biggest lead at 60-52 with 10:32 left. Desonta Bradford powered ETSU to a 17-4 run matching the Bucs' biggest lead at 69-64 with 4:15 left. Andrew Brown answered with a 3-pointer before Matt Rafferty had a steal and a 3-pointer to give Furman a 70-69 lead. It was tied 71-71 when Devin Sibley hit a 3-pointer and was fouled with 1:26 left. Sibley completed the four-point play.

"Daniel (Fowler) made a good play and a good pass. My defender just slacked off a little and I decided to shoot it," Sibley said of his big shot. "To come into this place on Senior Day, it's a big win."

Bradford's layup cut Furman's lead to 77-74 with 52 seconds left. The Paladins ran off much of the shot clock on their ensuing possession before Fowler missed. However, Fowler came up with a huge offensive rebound and John Davis was fouled with 15 seconds left. Davis hit 1-of-2 free throws then, and 1-of-2 with five seconds left for the final margin of 79-76.

"You can point to a lot of different plays, but the mental toughness is what got it done. We got up eight and they came all the way back and got up five," Richey said. "So you've got a 13-point swing there in a packed house against a team that's playing for a championship and you have the resiliency and mental resolve to stay the course and continue to swing. That's the story of the game.
"I told them before the game 'you're going to win this game because you're more connected,' and they showed that. There were two momentum swings that ETSU got and Daniel Fowler huddled our team twice - once in the first half and once in the second half. That's the growth and that's why we won this game today."

Furman held a 40-39 lead at the half despite shooting just 38.7 percent from the floor in the opening half, while ETSU shot 53.3 percent. The difference came at the foul line, where the Paladins were 12-for-12 and the Bucs were 1-for-2. Thanks to 10 ETSU turnovers, Furman had a 13-4 edge in points off turnovers in the first half.

The Paladins led by as many as eight in the first half with three minutes to go. ETSU reeled off a 13-3 run in a span of just 1:33 to take a 39-37 lead before Fowler's 3-pointer with 41 seconds left put Furman ahead at the half. It was just the second time an opponent held a halftime lead at ETSU this season and the first since Nov. 22.

Furman made 6-of-9 3-pointers in the second half, including each of its last five attempts. Meanwhile ETSU, which entered Saturday making 38.1 percent of its 3-pointers in league play, went 0-for-5 from beyond the arc after halftime. That came after going 6-of-13 on 3-pointers in the first half.

"That was a halftime adjustment because we were losing their (3-point) shooters," Richey said. "That opened the paint a little bit and so Bradford and them just started putting their head down and going to the rim. Then we had to shrink it back and fortunately we were able to slow it down a little bit."

Sibley led five Paladins in double figures with 17 points and six rebounds off the bench. Matt Rafferty had 14 points, six rebounds and three steals. Daniel Fowler and John Davis each scored 12 points and Fowler had five assists. Andrew Brown scored 11 for Furman.

The Paladins finished 21-of-28 from the foul line (75 percent) after entering Sunday last in league play in free throw shooting at 67.2 percent. Furman will carry a six-game winning streak into Asheville as their four seniors take their last shot at a tournament title.

"We've just been working to get better each game and that's why we're playing the way we're playing now," Sibley said. "It's the best way we could script going to the tournament."

Desonta Bradford scored 17 of his game-high 19 in final 10:14 of the game for ETSU (23-8, 14-4), which finished second in the league after home losses to The Citadel, Wofford and Furman to end the regular season.

N.C. State clinches series win over Paladins

Brandon Elmy went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles in Furman's
9-2 loss at N.C. State Saturday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
N.C. State piled up 13 hits and scored in six of the eight innings it batted as the Wolfpack cruised to a 9-2 win over Furman Saturday in Raleigh, N.C. No. 12-ranked N.C. State will go for the series sweep Sunday at 1 p.m.

After going 3-for-5 with five RBIs in Friday's series opener, N.C. State's Brett Kinneman went 4-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs Saturday. Evan Edwards went 3-for-3 with three RBIs and two runs also for the Wolfpack.

Furman (3-3) took a 1-0 lead in the first. Ben Anderson led off with a single and later scored on Brandon Elmy's two-out single. N.C. State answered in the bottom half when Josh McLain and Kinneman led off with singles and McLain later scored on Shane Shepard's sacrifice fly.

The Wolfpack took a lead it never relinquished in the third when Kinneman walked and later scored on a two-out single by Edwards. Kinneman led off the bottom of the fifth with his third home run of the series - and fourth this season. Later in the fifth, Edwards hit a two-run homer to push the lead to 5-1.

Furman's scoring wrapped up in the sixth when Landon Kay ended an 0-for-17 skid to start the season with an RBI-single, which scored Elmy who had doubled.

Johnny Piedmonte (2-0) allowed two runs on six hits in six innings to get the win for N.C. State. He had one walk and five strikeouts. Reid Johnston tossed three shutout innings of relief for his second save. Wolfpack pitchers have 18 strikeouts and one walk thus far in the series.

Furman starter Jake Crawford allowed six runs on eight hits in six innings to take the loss. He had four walks and two strikeouts.

Anderson and Elmy each went 3-for-4 to lead the Paladins.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Quarterbacks solid in Purple-White scrimmage

Furman freshman quarterback JeMar Lincoln. Photo courtesy of Furman.
At the beginning of spring practice, Furman football coach Clay Hendrix anticipated the battle to replace graduated quarterback P.J. Blazejowski to last well into August. In addition to those returning, it will also give the two quarterback signees from the 2018 recruiting class a chance to compete. Based on the results of Furman's annual Purple-White spring scrimmage Saturday at Paladin Stadium, that thought hasn't changed.

Senior Harris Roberts and redshirt freshman JeMar Lincoln, the two leading candidates among those returning, each had strong performances. In a game that featured four eight-minute quarters and a running clock, Roberts quarterbacked the Purple squad to a 16-10 victory. Coaches drafted the members of each team, and some players such as kicker Grayson Atkins and tailback Devin Wynn played for both squads.

Roberts completed 6-of-8 passes for 112 yards and carried once for a five-yard gain. Lincoln was 6-of-7 for 80 yards passing and had 22 yards rushing on three attempts.

"Both quarterbacks did some good stuff," Hendrix said. "They're a little different, but they can do all of our stuff. We're really pleased with how they've both progressed this spring and it's been about like they did today.
"The thing that's impressed me the most about JeMar is that he doesn't panic back there. He's not a skittish guy in the pocket and he takes care of the ball. He doesn't just throw one up."

On the opening drive of the game, Lincoln directed the White squad down the field with a mix of throwing and running with glimpses of his ability to escape a pass rush. After running for a 19-yard gain, Lincoln threw to Ryan DeLuca for a nine-yard touchdown.

On the Purple's first play, Roberts hurled a deep pass down the left sideline that Cam Burnette caught in stride for a 53-yard gain. That drive ended on a three-yard touchdown pass from Roberts to Jake Walker.

"That was fun," Roberts said of his first play. "I need to set an example. I've been here on losing teams and on a winning team. I know what needs to be done to win games and I just want to be able to show younger guys what it takes to go out and do it on Saturdays."

After kicking a 48-yard field goal to give the White a 10-7 lead, Atkins tied it up later with a 42-yard field goal for the Purple. On the ensuing possession, a high snap sailed over the head of Lincoln and the Purple's Elijah McKoy recovered at the nine-yard line. A few plays later, Deon Sanders plunged in for a one-yard touchdown and final score of the scrimmage.

"I was pretty pleased. When you split them up and it's not O vs. D, you might worry about it getting a little sloppy but I didn't think it was," Hendrix said. "Other than the bad snap by a guy at a new position and a missed extra point when they're not rushing by a really good kicker, there weren't really any mistakes that stood out."

DeLuca caught four passes for 65 yards, while Burnette caught three for 70 yards. Avery Armstrong had a pair of receptions for 39 yards. Wynn rushed four times for 26 yards.

After redshirting last season, Lincoln said his first spring practice has been good. While batting for a starting job, Lincoln has enjoyed how all the quarterbacks support each other.

"We're just working together as a team. There's only one guy out there and whoever it is, we've got to help him out because he's the guy leading our team," Lincoln said. "You've got to get better every day, but I feel like I've improved since the start of spring with my mechanics, footwork and just completing balls."

McKoy takes on leadership role
With the loss of many linebackers from last season, McKoy has sort of inherited a leadership role as a sophomore. McKoy is the most experienced inside linebacker returning as he made 81 tackles in 12 games as a freshman last season. In addition to his fumble recovery, he had three tackles in Saturday's short scrimmage.

"I feel like I improved a lot this spring. I definitely knew the system a lot better, so it helped having that experience," McKoy said. "There's always things to improve on, so I think I can still get better. ... With me being one of the only guys with experience, I've got to make sure the new guys get caught up and help them."

Inside linebacker was a thin position already that's been a bit thinner this spring as senior Tyler Voyles suffered a knee injury that will sideline him approximately six months. He made 25 tackles and 1.5 sacks last season.

"He got hurt on a non-contact drill. It's one of the good things about going (with spring practice) early," Hendrix said. "Sometimes you're surprised at how fast they come back, and sometimes they take longer. We'll see, but we're going to plan on having him back (for the season)."

Flu sidelines Morehead
Voyles was one of 10 players who was listed as out on Saturday's roster, but the rest were non-serious injuries. Those included cornerback Quandarius Weems, defensive end Alec Hanff, centers Chris Breedlove and Jonathan Bockhorst, offensive tackle Andy Godwin, and Clemson transfer cornerback/returner Amir Trapp.

Running back Darius Morehead was listed on the active roster, but did not participate Saturday. He's been dealing with the flu for the past few days.

"It's been a real challenge this spring trying to find time to practice. With classes, labs, flu, stomach bugs, weather and field sharing, it's been a challenge," Hendrix said. "But it's been a really productive spring. Watching those young guys develop has been a good sign. Defensively especially, we're so far ahead of where we were."

The Paladins will wrap up spring ball with a pair of practices this week.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Brown powers Paladins to fifth consecutive win

Andrew Brown scored a career-high 22 points to lead Furman to a
78-55 win at Western Carolina Friday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
CULLOWHEE, N.C. - Furman's Andrew Brown scored 16 of his career-high 22 points in the first half and the Paladins went on to their fifth straight win with a 78-55 victory at Western Carolina Friday night. All five of the wins have been by at least 15 points.

The win keeps Furman (21-9) in third place in the Southern Conference standings with one game left. The Paladins could've locked up the No. 3 seed in the SoCon Tournament on Friday, but Wofford won at ETSU to remain a game back of Furman.

For the Paladins to get the No. 3 seed, they will need a win at ETSU in the regular season finale Sunday at 2 p.m. or a Wofford home loss to Mercer. If neither of those results happen, Furman would finished tied with Wofford for third. Due to Wofford's win at ETSU, the Paladins would lose that tiebreaker and be the No. 4 seed and face Mercer next Saturday in Asheville.

A No. 3 seed would likely see the Paladins face Western Carolina. While Furman swept both teams this season, Mercer has won seven straight. There will be plenty on the line for both teams Sunday in Johnson City, Tenn. as ETSU has fallen into a first-place tie with UNCG.

"Every game from this point forward is one game at a time. Don't get caught up in what this means and what that means, just go play the best game you can possibly play," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "This stuff is all going to shake itself out. ... We want to finish right. It's going to be a hostile environment up there and we've got to make sure that we're focused and ready to guard."

Brown started off the scoring with a 3-pointer 17 seconds in setting the tone for the rest of the half. Brown's jumper capped a 12-2 run to start the game. His 3-pointer with 1:10 left in the first half staked the Paladins to a 44-26 lead.

Brown began the second half with back-to-back 3-pointers to push Furman's lead to 50-28. Despite the Paladins not committing a turnover until the 6:02 mark of the first half, they finished with 14. They seemingly always had an answer though and the Catamounts (12-18, 7-10) never got within 16 after halftime.

"Anytime you're on the road, you want to get off to the best start you can. Tonight, that was how we like to play. I thought the ball movement early was really good," Richey said. "We had some uncharacteristic turnovers, including two ridiculous ones on the baseline. ... But every time they tried to make a run, I thought we were able to throw a punch."

In Furman's win at Mercer on Feb. 1, Brown took a hit that sidelined him for the Paladins next game at The Citadel. There was rumblings that it might be a season-ending injury, but Brown came back and started the next game versus UNCG on Feb. 7 and scored 15 points. Brown has led Furman in scoring in each of the past three games. He's hit 13-of-20 3-pointers and scored 57 points over that span.

"I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to finish the season, which gave me a whole new perspective on being out there," Brown said. "It's kind of given me a new sense of enjoyment for basketball. It's nice to be able to just go out there and do what I love to do.
"It's easy to play with such unselfish guys. They always find you when you need it."

Furman shot 54.4 percent from the floor Friday, including 40.7 percent (11-of-27) on 3-pointers. Brown was 6-of-9 from beyond the arc. The Paladins held Western Carolina to 33.9 percent shooting.

Devin Sibley had 11 points and six rebounds for Furman, while Daniel Fowler had nine points and and six assists. Clay Mounce added six points and seven rebounds in 15 minutes off the bench. Eleven different Paladins scored.

"I'm really happy with Andrew's performance. He's been playing really, really well lately," Richey said. "We wanted to call more for him tonight and his teammates did a good job of finding him."

Mike Amius and Marc Gosselin were the only two Catamounts in double figures with 13 and 11 points, respectively.

Paladins drop series opener at N.C. State

Furman starter Grant Schuermann. Photo courtesy of Furman.
Brian Brown hurled seven shutout innings and had plenty of offensive support as 12th-ranked N.C. State defeated Furman 10-0 Friday in game one of the weekend series at Dail Park in Raleigh, N.C. Brett Kinneman went 3-for-5 with two home runs and five RBIs to lead the Wolfpack (5-1).

The game was scoreless for three innings before N.C. State broke through in the third. After an error and walk to open the inning, Wolfpack speedster Brock Deatherage beat out a bunt to load the bases. Dillon Cooper hit a sac fly to get N.C. State on the scoreboard and one out later, Josh McLain hit a two-run double.

The Wolfpack added five runs in the sixth. After Deatherage fell behind 0-2, he took four straight balls to lead off the inning with a walk. He stole second and third before coming home on a single by Cooper. That was followed by a single by J.T. Jarrett and an RBI-single by McLain that chased Furman starter Grant Schuermann. Kinneman greeted reliever Tyler Kimbrell with a three-run homer to right to make it 8-0.

Kinneman capped the scoring with a two-run homer to center in the seventh.

Brown (2-0) allowed three hits and no walks in his seven scoreless innings. He had eight strikeouts. Schuermann (1-1) gave up seven runs, four earned, on seven hits in five innings. He had three walks and one strikeout.

Singles by John Michael Boswell, Jake Crawford and Logan Taplett accounted for all of Furman's hits, and N.C. State pitchers issued no walks.

Game two of the series is scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Clemson hands Furman baseball first loss

Jabari Richards had two hits in Furman's 12-4 loss
at Clemson Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
Clemson used a four-run fifth inning to snap a 1-1 tie and went on to a 12-4 win Tuesday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. Chris Williams went 2-for-4 with a career-high six RBIs to lead the 11th-ranked Tigers (4-0) to the win.

After Clemson took a 1-0 lead in the third, Furman responded in the fourth. Jabari Richards led off with an infield single and scored when Jason Costa followed with a double to left. The Paladins (3-1) looked to have taken a 3-1 lead when Brandon Elmy followed with a shot to straightaway centerfield, but Clemson's Bryce Teodosio robbed Elmy with a leaping grab over the wall.

It was still tied in the fifth when Williams hammered a three-run homer and Teodosio later added an RBI-single to give Clemson a 5-1 lead. The Tigers added to their lead with a pair of two-out RBIs in the sixth and put the game out of reach with a five-run seventh.

Patrick Cromwell went 3-for-4 to lead Clemson's 13-hit effort. The top five batters in the Tigers' order went 11-for-19 with 11 runs scored and 10 RBIs. Clemson's Ryan Miller (1-0) got the win with three hitless innings of relief.

Richards and Costa each had two hits for Furman, which tallied six hits as a team. Costa finished with two RBIs. Nik Verbeke (1-1) gave up four runs on two hits and three walks in 1/3 of an inning to take the loss.

This tough early stretch of the schedule continues this weekend as the Paladins travel to N.C. State. First pitch for Friday's opening game of the three-game series is set for 3 p.m.

Crawford honored
Jake Crawford was honored as the Southern Conference Player of the Week for his showing in Furman's season-opening sweep of reigning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Marist.

Crawford went 7-for-9 (.778) in two games at the plate over the weekend, with a double, a homer, three RBIs and five runs scored. In between manning third base on Friday and Sunday, Crawford got the pitching start for the Paladins on Saturday. In four innings of work, the former Belton-Honea Path High standout allowed one earned run and tallied a career-high eight strikeouts.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Paladins rout VMI on emotional Senior Night

Furman's Daniel Fowler (35), Devin Sibley (12), Geoff Beans (3) and
John Davis III (1) were honored in Senior Night festivities prior to the
Paladins' 76-54 win over VMI Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
Hundreds of Senior Nights will be celebrated this time of year at college basketball arenas throughout the country. They will all be emotional, some more than others. It would be difficult to imagine one more than Furman's Tuesday night at Timmons Arena.

Prior to their final home game, the careers of seniors Geoff Beans, John Davis III, Daniel Fowler and Devin Sibley were celebrated. After honoring that group that's been the nucleus of taking Furman's basketball program from rock bottom into a winner, the Paladins cruised to a 76-54 win over VMI.

"People just don't get what these four kids signed up for. They don't get what the program was like when these four guys made the decision to come here," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "Not only did they decide to come with the vision that Coach (Niko) Medved and staff laid out, but they did it. And it had not been done in a very long time. And they did it when nobody thought they could do it.

"The only group of people who thought they could do it was this group. Now, we're going to hear about how we didn't play great after a 22-point win. That's what these guys have created. Twenty-two point wins around here, five or six years ago when I first got here before Coach Medved? We didn't have a whole lot of those. ... That was a great way for those four to go out tonight."

The win gave Furman back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in 38 years. It improved Furman's home record in SoCon play over the last three years to 24-3.

The big night for the Paladins got a little bigger soon afterwards when UNCG completed a 10-point win at Wofford. That leaves Furman (20-9) alone in third place in the Southern Conference at 11-5 with two games left, while Wofford slips to fourth at 10-6. The Paladins have clinched at least the No. 4 seed for the SoCon Tournament.

With the buzz of the pregame festivities still in the air, the Paladins looked to be overly trying early on Tuesday. Furman trailed 16-7 with 12:35 left in the first half before going on a 27-3 run over the next 10 minutes to go up 34-19. It was eerily similar to the team's first meeting in VMI this year when the Paladins fell behind 15-6 before going on a 29-0 run.

After the Keydets (8-19, 3-13) cut the lead to 34-26 at the half, Furman opened the second half with a 20-5 run and never looked back.

"I think it was one of those things where you just want it to go so well so bad, you just come out a little bit tense and you've got to settle down," Richey said. "I wasn't surprised when they were up 7-5 and 10-5. I did start to get a little worried when it was 16-7. ... But we settled in and started guarding and the intensity and speed of our defense started really picked up, which always carries into our offense.
"I didn't like how we finished the first half, but we made a heck of run right out of the gate out of halftime."

The lopsided win allowed Richey to sub out the seniors individually, so each could get one last ovation from the crowd and one last hug from the coaches. The last senior left was Beans, who hadn't yet scratched in the scoring column. Richey made no bones about one of the Paladins' final offensive play calls when he yelled to his team to "get Geoff a shot." That possession ended when Beans rattled home a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 51 seconds left as Richey pumped his fist.

"I was hoping that sovereignty would play in a little bit and that thing would fall in, and sure enough it did," Richey said. "He needed to exit with a three on his last night in Timmons Arena."

While it was the seniors' night, others reminded that the future remains bright. Junior Andrew Brown led Furman with 15 points and three steals, while sophomore Jordan Lyons scored 12 off the bench. Fowler had 12 points, while Sibley had 10 points and nine rebounds. Matt Rafferty added seven points and five assists. Sibley moved into seventh place on Furman's all-time scoring list with 1,780 career points.

Despite having 14 turnovers to VMI's 13, the Paladins had a 25-4 advantage in points off turnovers. Furman had a 34-16 edge on points in the paint and outscored the Keydets 20-0 on fast break points.

The lone Keydet in double figures was Jordan Ratliffe, who scored 10 off the bench. VMI leading scorer Bubba Parham, who was averaging 15.2 points per game, was held to three points on 1-of-10 shooting. In every other SoCon game this season, Parham has scored at least 11 points.

"Bubba's a very good player. You just try to prevent him from going off and contain everyone else," Fowler said. "When we picked up our defensive intensity, started creating turnovers and getting stops ... that's when the game started to change."

Furman closes out the regular season with games at Western Carolina Friday at 7 p.m. and at ETSU Sunday at 2 p.m.

"The last couple of years, we've struggled in this last stretch of games leading into the (SoCon) tournament," Brown said. "That's definitely affected us in the tournament. This year, we're trying to stay hot, play together, keep getting better every day and just focus on the next game."

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Costa belts walk-off homer as Furman sweeps

Teammates prepare to greet Jason Costa at home plate after Costa's walk-off
homer in Furman's 7-6 win over Marist Sunday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
In a tie game with one out in the bottom of the 10th, Jason Costa blasted a home run over the right-centerfield wall to lift Furman to a 7-6 walk-off win over Marist Sunday afternoon at Latham Stadium.

Costa's second homer of the season wrapped up the season-opening sweep for the Paladins (3-0) over the reigning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions. It also gave Furman back-to-back wins in one-run games, which the Paladins went 6-9 in last season.

"I was just trying to put a good swing on it and not do too much," Costa said. "The first two pitches were balls so 2-0, I figured he was going to have to come at me. It was a high and outside fastball and I just went with it. I wasn't sure if it was going out at first, but luckily it did."

The 390-foot blast made a winner of reliever Tyler Kimbrell (1-0), who allowed three hits and no walks in two scoreless innings. He had three strikeouts. Marist's Tony Romanelli (0-1), who was brilliant for four scoreless innings prior to Costa's homer, took the loss.

Furman trailed 4-3 through five-and-a-half innings. In the bottom of the sixth, Costa was hit by a pitch and Brandon Elmy doubled before Jake Crawford ripped the first pitch he saw over the left-field fence. Crawford's three-run shot gave the Paladins a 6-4 lead and chased Marist starter Conor McNamara.

Marist's Frankie Gregoire hit a two-run single in the seventh to tie the game. The Red Foxes (0-3) threatened for more as they loaded the bases. Furman reliever John Michael Bertrand got a grounder to short for a 6-4-3 double play to escape with no further damage. Trent Alley worked a 1-2-3 eighth before Kimbrell came on for the final two innings.

Kimbrell somehow got out of the 10th unscathed after it began with a double and a bunt infield single for Marist. The Red Foxes tried to take the lead on a safety squeeze, but Brandon Elmy fielded the bunt and threw home where Marist's Greg Kocinski was ruled out on a swipe tag by Furman catcher Logan Taplett. Kimbrell struck out the next two batters, setting the stage for Costa's heroics in the bottom of the inning.

"That was a fun game. Not exactly how you draw it up there in the top of the 10th. A lot of times it might not go your way right there, but that's what's so fun about sports. You just don't know what's going to happen," Furman coach Brett Harker said. "Then Jason comes up and that's a really tough place to hit the ball out, especially for a right-hander. That shows the kind of power he has.
"That was really fun for our guys and obviously a huge weekend for our program."

Crawford went 4-for-4 with three runs and three RBIs to lead the Paladins. Logan Taplett was 3-of-4 and Elmy had a pair of hits also for Furman.

True freshman Matt Lazzaro allowed four runs, one earned, on five hits in five innings for Furman. The left-hander had one walk and four strikeouts.

"Anytime a freshman goes out there and goes five innings with one earned - and didn't really have his best stuff, I think that's pretty good," Harker said. "He got his feet wet a little bit ... and I thought he handled the pressure well."

Kocinski went 4-for-4 with two doubles, a home run, two runs and two RBIs to lead Marist.

Furman next plays at Clemson Tuesday at 4 p.m.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Paladins hang on, clinch opening series

Jason Costa went 2-for-3 with two RBIs to lead Furman to a
5-4 win over Marist Saturday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
A trio of Furman pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts and the Paladins overcame three errors in a 5-4 win over Marist Saturday at Latham Stadium. Furman (2-0) will try to complete the sweep of the season-opening series Sunday at 1 p.m.

For the second day in a row, the Paladins trailed 2-1 early before putting up a four-spot to take the lead for good. On Saturday, it came in the fourth inning.

After getting Furman on the board with an RBI-single in the second, freshman Ben Anderson began the fourth-inning rally with a two-out single. Jabari Richards had an infield single before Jason Costa hit a two-run double to left giving Furman a 3-2 lead. After a Brandon Elmy walk, John Michael Boswell greeted Marist reliever Mike Coss with a double to left that scored Costa and Elmy.

The Red Foxes (0-2) got single runs in the fifth and eighth to pull within one. Furman sophomore reliever Johnathan Mouw struck out the first two Marist batters in the ninth. After a walk, Mouw got a grounder to first to complete his first collegiate save.

Mouw, who was making his collegiate debut after being sidelined by injuries each of the past two seasons, worked two scoreless innings of relief with three strikeouts. Nik Verbeke (1-0) allowed two runs, one earned, in three innings of relief to collect the win. He had one walk and three strikeouts. Furman starter Jake Crawford gave up two runs, one earned, on four hits in four innings. Crawford had three walks and a career-high eight strikeouts.

Costa and Anderson each finished with two hits to lead the Paladins, who had seven hits for the game.

Marist starter Charlie Jerla, the reigning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year, allowed one run on two hits in 2 1/3 innings. He had four walks, hit a batter and struck out two. Tyler Dearden (0-1) gave up four runs on three hits in 1 1/3 innings to take the loss.

Andrew Rouse went 2-for-3 with two runs scored to lead the Red Foxes offensively.

Paladins pile up baskets in win at Samford

Travelers Rest's Andrew Brown had 20 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists in
Furman's 94-79 win at Samford Saturday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
The Furman men's basketball team reminded everyone that they have more than one way to earn a convincing win Saturday. After getting back on track with defense in lopsided wins the previous two times out, the Paladins hit the most field goals they've made in 13 seasons in a 94-79 win Saturday at Samford.

In running its winning streak to three, Furman (19-9, 10-5 Southern Conference) hit 40-of-75 (53.3 percent) of its shots from the field. That's the most field goals in a single game since Furman made 49 against Virginia Intermont on Dec. 29, 2004.

"I thought that first half was one of our best halves of offense this year," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "In the second half we settled for a few threes at times where I thought we could continue to drive and cut and keep getting easy twos.
"Overall though, you score 94 points on the road, have five guys in double figures and 24 assists. I'm definitely not disappointed in that."

Playing less than 48 hours after a home win against Chattanooga Thursday, the five-hour bus ride to Alabama didn't faze the Paladins who never trailed for the second game in a row. Jordan Lyons' 3-pointer just under seven minutes in gave Furman an 18-7 lead. Samford got no closer than nine the rest of the way and the three times the Bulldogs got the lead under 10, the Paladins had a quick response each time.

Samford trailed 18-9 before Daniel Fowler and John Davis drained jumpers and Lyons hit a layup over the next 62 seconds to push the lead to 15. It was 38-29 with just more than four minutes left in the first half when Devin Sibley dunked, and Matt Rafferty and Davis followed with layups to get the advantage back to 15. Lyons' 3-pointer with eight seconds left staked Furman to a 51-33 lead at the half.

The Paladins held a 23-11 rebounding advantage in the first half, along with 16 assists and just five turnovers.

"I thought we defended in the meat of the game really well, especially in the first half," Richey said. "They started to heat up in the second half. They're talented offensively and the numbers show it."

Furman led by as many as 21 in the second half before Samford got the lead down to 63-54 with 14:07 left. The Paladins responded with an 8-2 run to get it back to that familiar 15-point lead.

Furman finished with 24 assists and nine turnovers and a 40-29 rebounding edge, including 13 offensive boards. Even though the Paladins hit 11 3-pointers, they still put up 52 points in the paint. Furman generated its highest point total of any road game this season with only five free throw attempts (three made) as the Bulldogs were whistled for just seven fouls.

Andrew Brown scored 20 points to lead five Paladins in double figures and he also had seven rebounds and four assists. Sibley finished with 17 points and seven rebounds. Davis had 14 points, five assists and two steals. Rafferty had his fifth double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, along with four assists. Fowler had 12 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

Coming off the bench for the third straight game, Sibley also had no turnovers in 32 minutes. It's the first full game this season for Sibley in which he did not have a turnover. It comes after only one turnover in a 16-point, eight-rebound performance against Chattanooga.

"Devin's worked through this whole situation like I'd expect him to," Richey said. "He's doing a better job of being more efficient with his dribble. It's like I tell him, 'you should be able to do anything you need to do on that court with three or four dribbles.' "

Demetrius Denzel-Dyson had a game-high 25 points to lead Samford (9-20, 5-11).

Furman returns home Tuesday to face VMI at 7 p.m. on Senior Night.

"I encourage all of our fans and people in the community to come out and give these guys the recognition they deserve," Richey said. "In the last three years, we're at 61 wins. ... These four (seniors) have had a huge piece in that.
"I just think we need to make sure we do everything we can to get people out there. Let's make sure we have a rocking house Tuesday night to show these four seniors that we appreciate what they've done for this program."

Friday, February 16, 2018

Richards powers Paladins to win in opener

Jabari Richards had a career-high six RBIs and Grant Schuermann tossed six solid innings to lead the Furman baseball team to a season opening 13-4 win over Marist Friday at Latham Stadium.

"Obviously, we swung the the bats very well. We didn't come out the gate all that strong. That was a pretty good arm there (Marist starter Skyler Pichardo)," Furman coach Brett Harker said. "We scuffled a little bit, but then our bats got hot. ... Overall, I was very pleased with how we played against a quality opponent."

Sims Griffith RBI-single gave Furman a 1-0 lead in the second before Marist came back in third on Matt Rubayo's solo home run. The reigning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Red Foxes took a 2-1 lead in the fourth on Furman's first error of the season.

The Paladins' offense erupted in the fifth. Following singles by Bret Huebner and Ben Anderson, Richards hit one of those classic Jabari Richards' home runs just to the left of straightaway center. Jason Costa deposited the next pitch over the wall in left field. The back-to-back homers staked Furman to a 5-2 lead.

The Paladins added three runs an inning later. Anderson, a highly-touted freshman centerfielder who led off Friday, did a beautiful job of hitting the opposite way stroking a two-run triple down the left-field line. Richards followed with a double to left-center to push the lead to 8-2.

"Jabari will take a couple of swings that has you scratching your head and then he absolutely smokes one to the opposite field and you just realize how talented the kid is," Harker said. "Next at-bat, he comes up and is fooled out front. He flicks his wrists and is a foot away from another home run."

Richards added a two-run double to right-center in the eighth. After an 0-for-4 start to the day, Brandon Elmy got in on the offensive fun with a two-run homer to make it 13-2.

Jake Crawford and Richards had three hits apiece to lead Furman, while Anderson and Griffith each finished with two hits.

"Legging out a triple to left field is not something you normally see in baseball," Harker said about Anderson's hit in the sixth. "That was just so exciting to see that kid go 2-for-4 with walk right out of the chute as a freshman."

Schuermann (1-0) allowed two runs, one earned, on six hits in six innings. He had two walks and four strikeouts. Tyler Kimbrell had five strikeouts in two scoreless innings of relief.

"I didn't think Grant had his best stuff and he still goes six innings and gives up two runs on opening day. That's not a bad day right there," Harker said. "TK threw the ball very well in the middle."

Game two of the series is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Defense helps Paladins cruise past UTC

Furman's Devin Sibley had 16 points, 8 rebounds and 2 steals to
lead the Paladins to a 75-56 win over Chattanooga Thursday.
Coming off possibly its finest defensive performance this season Saturday against Wofford, that effort carried over for Furman Thursday. The Paladins held Chattanooga to a 33.3 percent shooting night from the floor, including 10.5 percent (2-of-19) on 3-pointers, in a 75-56 victory at Timmons Arena.

Furman (18-9, 9-5 Southern Conference) forced 12 of the Mocs' 19 turnovers in the first half as the Paladins held a 20-point lead at the break. Furman had just two turnovers and a 22-0 advantage in points off turnovers in the first half. The Paladins finished with a 28-11 edge in points off turnovers and a 17-0 advantage in points off turnovers.

"I thought we did what we needed to do to open up the game right before halftime with that run," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "In the initial parts of the second half, I thought we were sharp enough to make sure the lead stayed where it was. After the 12-minute mark, we got a little sloppy.
"But that's something we can learn from. They always say it's way easier to learn after you win than after you lose."

UTC (9-19, 3-12) never had a lead, but the game was tight early. The Mocs trailed 21-18 with 7:25 left in the first half before the Paladins began to pull away. After a John Davis' jumper, Geoff Beans hit a 3-pointer and Alex Hunter drilled a jumper to give Furman its first double-digit lead at 28-18. The Paladins ended the first half on a 15-3 run to take a 43-23 lead at the break.

After a sold-out crowd helped make for an electric atmosphere Saturday in Furman's 76-52 win over Wofford, it was a stark difference Thursday. That made the Paladins' start all the more important.

"The atmosphere wasn't quite what we saw Saturday. It was a little quiet in there, so we had to make sure that we were bringing the energy ourselves," Richey said. "We were okay there at the start, but it got much better as the half went along. We had eight deflections at the half which was one of our season-highs."

The Paladins enjoyed the big halftime lead despite getting outrebounded 18-10 in the half. While the second half got rough at times, Furman did shore up that category a bit as UTC finished with a 40-31 edge on the boards.

Coming off the bench for the second game in a row, Devin Sibley had 12 points in the second half. His 3-pointer with 15:48 left gave Furman its biggest lead at 53-27.

"I thought Devin was great. He really responded defensively and he got in a rhythm from an aggression standpoint offensively," Richey said. "Devin, John Davis and Daniel (Fowler) all did a good job of being aggressive and persistent off the dribble. We are just much better when we've got an attack mindset on offense - when we move it to attack and make people continue to rotate.
"I thought we had a good offensive flow. I wish it was a little bit more consistent."

Sibley finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and two steals in 21 minutes. Daniel Fowler had 12 points, Jordan Lyons 11 and Matt Rafferty 10 also for the Paladins.

"It's different, but I just try to do what I can to help the team win. That's what my mindset is," Sibley said. "It doesn't matter whether I'm coming off the bench or not."

Joshua Phillips led UTC with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Rodney Chatman, who's been a dynamic scorer for the Mocs of late, had 10 points in 13 first-half minutes before leaving the game for good after a collision with Furman's Jalen Williams on a loose ball. UTC leading scorer Nat Dixon, who's been away from the team for the past two games, came off the bench Thursday and had four points on 1-of-9 shooting.

This was the first of five games over a 12-day stretch to wrap up the regular season for the Paladins. Next up for Furman is a trip to Samford Saturday for a 2 p.m. tip-off.

"Everybody's a leader on the team, not just the seniors," said Fowler, one of four seniors. "We just have to understand that we're going to get teams' best shot. ... So we've got to play to our standard every game."

Note: Furman played without freshman Clay Mounce, who didn't dress out after straining his calf when his bicycle seat broke. Richey said Mounce, who's scored at least seven points in four of his last five games, is day-to-day.

Furman baseball ready to open the 2018 season

Furman ace Grant Schuermann will get the opening day start Friday
when the Paladins begin the 2018 season against Marist at 4 p.m.
The Furman baseball team is set to begin the 2018 season Friday with six position starters returning, along with senior left-handed starter Grant Schuermann. While Schuermann was the best pitcher in the Southern Conference the last month of the 2017 season and there's plenty of experience around him, the shoes to fill are pretty big.

Gone are Colorado Rockies' third-round draft pick Will Gaddis as well as outfielder Carter Grote, who may have had more moxie than anyone to ever wear a Furman uniform. Other key starters who've graduated include catcher Cam Whitehead and outfielder Sky Overton. These players helped lead the 2017 Paladins to a school-record 33 wins in a season and a spot in the final game of the SoCon Tournament.

Picked to finish fourth in the SoCon by the league's media and sixth by the coaches in the preseason, Furman will kick off the season with a three-game series against Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference preseason favorite Marist beginning Friday at 4 p.m. at Latham Stadium.

"One of the biggest things that we keep talking about is that we've got to have some serious grit. We don't think we're quite as talented as we were last year. But with the leadership and experience we have, if we have a little grit and refuse to let ups and downs get to us, I think we can be very successful," Furman coach Brett Harker said. "We definitely still have enough talent to do it. ... We can embrace being the underdog that's getting overlooked and use it to our advantage."

While Gaddis capped off his spectacular career with another great season last year, it was Schuermann who commanded the Friday starting spot by season's end and he will resume that role in the season opener. Coming back from Tommy John surgery that cost him the 2016 season, Schuermann went 4-0 with an 0.71 ERA over his final five starts last season capped by a 6-1 win over regular season champion Mercer at the SoCon Tournament.

After Schuermann, the weekend rotation consists of junior right-hander Jake Crawford Saturday and true freshman lefty Matt Lazzaro on Sunday. Junior Heath Hawkins, whose been Furman's best reliever, was expected to challenge for a starting spot. However, Hawkins has been dealing with a nagging bicep injury that Harker said will likely see him need to build up arm strength coming out of the bullpen again. The left-right-left rotation gives the Paladins a new look that Harker believes could be a benefit.

"It's something we haven't been able to do since I've been here, so it'll be nice to switch it up," Harker said. "Schuermann and Lazzaro are very similar, so it's kind of nice to put in a righty that's completely opposite in between with Jake being a harder thrower with a big breaking ball.
"Lazzaro has flat out earned his spot. To earn that spot as a weekend starter for a freshman isn't easy to do. He's not only going to have a bright future with us, I think he's going to have an immediate impact and win us a lot of games as a freshman."

In a sport where defense is often overlooked but can prove very detrimental when not played well, Harker is happy to have his starting infield back intact. It's led by All-SoCon first baseman Brandon Elmy (.341, 11 HR, 49 RBI), who had his terrific 2017 season end with a hamstring injury with two games left in the regular season. Other starting infielders include Sims Griffith at second, Bret Huebner at shortstop and Crawford at third.

Senior Jason Costa (.318/5/21) takes over behind the plate in place of Whitehead. Costa made 33 starts, including 17 at catcher last year.

The Paladins should also receive a boost from first baseman Deon Sanders, who will miss the first portion of the season due to spring football practice. He hit seven home runs and played terrific defense in replacing an injured Elmy as a freshman in 2016, before missing last season with an injury. 

In the outfield, preseason All-SoCon pick Landon Kay (.332/11/37) is back in right while Jabari Richards (.304/6/30) mans left. In center, it will either be redshirt freshman David Webel or highly-touted true freshman Ben Davidson. Webel was an opening-day starter last season and hit .333 over six starts before having his season cut short by injury.

"We've got a lot of innings returning in the infield. Our right side has been starting for three years and we feel good about that," Harker said. "I think the strength of our program is our outfield. We've got four outfielders who are going to make it hard to decide who to put out there. I think we're pretty fast and we will be able to cover some ground out there."

This weekend's games will be live streamed on the SoCon Digital Network. When not conflicting with men's basketball, audio streams will be available on TuneIn Radio and and WPLS-FM 95.9 in the Furman area. Links are available at

Single-game tickets are $5, while season tickets for all 30 home games - including Fluor Field contests against Clemson and South Carolina - are available for $50 at

For the second season in a row, I'll be providing recaps of each game, as well as features and notes throughout the season here at

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Reconnected Paladins roll over Wofford

In Bob Richey's first season as Furman men's basketball head coach, the keyword has been "connected." That not only entails sharing the ball on offense, but playing together defensively as well.

Facing a Wofford team loaded with offensive weapons all over the court Saturday, team defense was all the more important and the Paladins rose to the occasion. Furman rallied from an early nine-point deficit to record a dominant 76-52 win before a sellout crowd of 2,552 at Timmons Arena.

In holding Wofford to its fewest points since the season opener (52 against South Carolina), Furman pulled even in the standings with the Terriers. Both teams are 17-9 overall and third in the Southern Conference at 8-5.

"I thought we played as hard as we have all year and we were as connected as we have been all year on defense," Richey said. "We got back to the understanding that even though the team has capability to score 80, that's not who we are. ... We've got to go out there and defend and individual defense isn't good enough, especially when you're facing an offense that talented.
"We were great teammates out there today. We flew around on defense and moved the ball. That's what Furman basketball's about."

Coming off a devastating overtime loss at the The Citadel and an uninspired home loss to UNCG, Richey shook things up a bit Saturday. For the first time this season - without an injury being the reason, there was a change in the starting lineup as Jordan Lyons replaced Devin Sibley.

Just over three minutes into the game, it appeared that Furman may be in for another tough day. SoCon leading scorer Fletcher Magee had a layup and a 3-pointer and Wofford had an 11-2 lead when Richey called timeout 3:14 into the game.

"I really just called them down. We'd missed three layups and they hit a couple of transition shots," Richey said. "We had good intent. It wasn't the same as Wednesday (against UNCG) when we got off to a really lethargic start."

The Paladins responded with a 16-0 run, holding the Terriers scoreless from the 16:46 mark to the 9:12 mark of the first half. It became a 37-7 run before Wofford scored the last three points of the half as Furman held a 39-21 lead at the break. Nine different Paladins had at least one assist in the opening half. It was the lowest point total of any half this season for the Terriers, who missed all nine of their 3-pointers in the rest of the half after Magee hit their first attempt.

The bench played a big role in the surge for Furman as they scored 21 points in the opening half. On the first possession after Sibley entered, he immediately drove to the hole and drew a foul from Magee. Sibley, Clay Mounce and Jalen Williams each had six points off the bench in the half. In just his second game action since Jan. 24 after dealing with back spasms, Williams added five rebounds and two blocked shots in seven first-half minutes.

"I felt like I had a chain on or something, because I was ready to get out. It was fun to be out there," Williams said. "I played inspired basketball because of the people in my life and on this team. They're my brothers and my family. I've been going through some tough things off the court and they've really helped me stay the course."

Furman didn't let up coming out of halftime with a 7-0 run. Daniel Fowler, who somehow didn't score in the big first half, had 12 points midway through the second half. His last bucket came on a dunk with 9:16 left that pushed the lead to 62-38. Furman led by as much as 31 in the second half.

Magee was held 13 below his scoring average as he and Nathan Hoover led Wofford with 10 points apiece. Wofford, which entered Saturday ranked No. 1 in the SoCon and No. 5 in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage at 42.1, made 30.4 percent (7-of-23) Saturday. The Terriers shot 35.2 percent from the floor overall.

After Cameron Jackson's 20-point performance in the Terriers' win over Furman in Spartanburg on Jan. 13, Matt Rafferty and Williams held Wofford's terrific post player to four points and seven rebounds. The Terriers had a 39-26 rebounding advantage in that first meeting as well, but just a 36-35 edge Saturday as Furman big men Rafferty, Williams and Mounce all logged significant minutes.

It was the first time all season that Rafferty and Williams were on the court together at the same time. Mounce was also in the game with both for some minutes as well.

"I wasn't real happy about getting outrebounded by 21 on Wednesday night," Richey said. "I just felt like we were able to do some things to go big and just bring some physicality to the game. We probably should've done it Wednesday night and in some other games where we've been dealing with some size, but this team tonight showed that we're capable of doing that."

John Davis scored 13 points to lead the Paladins, while Fowler finished with 12 and three steals. Rafferty had nine points and 10 rebounds. Mounce had eight points and Williams had seven points and six rebounds. Furman had 18 assists and seven turnovers, while forcing 15 turnovers.

"Our connectivity and defense had been slacking lately, but we got it together a little bit today," Rafferty said. "We've got to continue doing that every day, including practice. ... We had to get back to our biggest strength, which is our chemistry."

Furman next hosts Chattanooga Thursday at 7 p.m.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

UNCG completes series sweep of Furman

On the opening possession of the Furman-UNCG Wednesday night, the Spartans' Demetrius Troy drove hard to the bucket and threw up either a terrible shot or an innovative pass off the backboard. Whatever it was, after the ball bounced straight back to Troy and he laid it in it went down as a layup.

Then UNCG 6-foot-9 forward Jordy Kuiper banked in a 3-pointer and later 6-8 reserve Kyrin Galloway banked in a 3-pointer. And this wasn't even the half that UNCG shot 64 percent from the floor in.

It was that kind of night for Furman. While some fluky shots went down in the first half for the Spartans, there was nothing fluky at all about their 80-67 win. It's the second year in a row that UNCG (18-6, 9-2) has visited Timmons Arena and left with a double-digit victory. In the Paladins' last 24 SoCon games at home, their only other loss came on a last-second, one-point defeat at the hands of ETSU earlier this season. UNCG becomes the first SoCon team to sweep the season series with Furman since the 2014-15 season when the Paladins went 5-13 in league play.

"It was a disappointing performance tonight, pretty much across the board. I didn't think we came out with the intensity that we needed to start a game of this magnitude," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "We weren't aggressive enough on either end of the floor to win a game like that."

Coming off seeing a 17-point second half lead evaporate in a tough overtime loss at The Citadel Saturday, the Paladins (16-9, 7-5) came sputtering out of the gate. UNCG led 8-0 before Daniel Fowler's layup just over three minutes into the game. Six minutes in, the Spartans led 16-4. Over eight-and-a-half minutes in, it was 21-7.

Furman clawed its way back to trail 31-29 on Matt Rafferty's layup with 3:23 left in the first half, but the Paladins could never grab the lead. After taking a 36-31 lead into halftime, UNCG's Marvin Smith scored the first five points of the second to push the lead to 10.

Furman shaved that lead to three at the 15:38 mark, but the Spartans answered with a 10-2 run. The Paladins never got within six the rest of the way. After Fowler's layup cut the lead to 55-49 with 9:01 left, UNCG went on a 19-6 run over the next five-and-a-half minutes to take its biggest lead of the night at 19.

"I thought our guys started to play with much more fight (late in the first half) and went to halftime expecting us to come out with more fight and we just didn't," Richey said. "This game's not for the weak-minded. When you're not prepared mentally for fights and to go after people, it can get hard on you quick."

UNCG used its superior length to outrebound Furman 38-17, including 19-5 in the second half. The Spartans had 12 offensive rebounds for a 12-0 edge in second-half points. Despite committing 16 turnovers and only forcing 10, UNCG had a 15-9 advantage in points off turnovers. The Spartans scored 40 points in the paint thanks to a bevy of dunks and layups. In the second half, UNCG shot 64 percent from the floor and made 13-of-16 of its two-point shots.

Meanwhile, UNCG held reigning SoCon Player of the Year Devin Sibley to six points on 2-of-5 shooting from the floor in 29 minutes. It's the fewest shots Sibley has attempted in a game in which he's played at least 24 minutes in since Nov. 21, 2015.

"They've got size and length and play much bigger than we do, but we didn't get outrebounded like this in past games (against UNCG)," Richey said. "I don't care how small you are or how big they are, if you get beat by 21 on the glass, you got whipped."

Smith led five Spartans in double figures with 18 points. Troy and Francis Alonso each scored 12 points and combined for nine assists. James Dickey added 11 points and 12 assists.

After missing Saturday's game with an injury, Andrew Brown returned to the lineup Wednesday and led Furman with 15 points. Fowler was the lone other Paladin in double figures with 12.

In a conference as good as the SoCon is, teams simply can't afford to let a devastating loss like Saturday's beat them twice. Richey wasn't completely sure if that was the case for his team Wednesday, but he said it appeared that way early on

"The only other time this season where I feel like I did tonight about us just not giving the effort that was needed was the Winthrop game. Going into that game, we had some bad practices," Richey said. "The surprising thing about tonight is that we've had a pretty good two days (of practice) considering what we went through (Saturday).
"It definitely looked like it was lingering tonight. I could definitely see that it looked like we came out emotionless."

Furman next hosts Wofford Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Furman football completes recruiting class

After 10 high school football players signed with Furman in the new early signing period in December, six more faxed in their commitment letter on the traditional February signing day Wednesday.

Along with three transfers that are already on campus and currently participating in spring practice, the total class size for this season is 19. In his first recruiting campaign with a full season of head coaching under his belt, Furman coach Clay Hendrix is a fan of the new earlier period.

"I love it. I would've loved to have had all of them in December. I don't think that will ever happen, but I think we can sign a good corps of kids going forward in December," Hendrix said. "We've had these six settled for a couple of weeks, so it was a nice January. We weren't doing a lot of babysitting trying to hold on to guys. Our kids have been solid."

Following a successful 2017 season that saw Furman win eight games and advance to the second round of the FCS playoffs, success seems to have continued in this recruiting season. Of course, that will ultimately be determined over the course of the next few years.

During Furman's annual National Signing Day Celebration Wednesday at the American Burger Company in downtown Greenville, Paladin fans heard from every assistant about the newly signed players at their position. Recruiting coordinator/outside linebackers coach Duane Vaughn said that out of all the players who made official visits to Furman's campus, only one didn't sign.

The newest Paladins include the sons of three former NFL players. Linebacker Jax Hackett is the son of former Pro Bowl and All-Southern Conference linebacker at Appalachian State, Dino Hackett. Wide receiver Zack Peterson is the son of Todd Peterson, who was a placekicker in the NFL for 12 years. Cornerback/return specialist Amir Trapp, a junior transfer from Clemson, is the son of James Trapp. Trapp was a defensive back for 11 years in the NFL and also an Olympic sprinter. 

This year's class focused on defensive needs. The Paladins signed four defensive backs, three defensive linemen and three inside linebackers.

"We were really thin at inside linebacker and that's a quality group we added. They're a little bigger and more athletic," Hendrix said.

Offensively, the Paladins signed three wide receivers, two quarterbacks, two running backs, an offensive tackle and a tight end. Quarterbacks was a focus following the graduation of P.J. Blazejowski.

While senior Harris Roberts, redshirt freshman JeMar Lincoln and others are taking the snaps at quarterback currently in spring ball, Hendrix said new signees, Hamp Sisson and Conway's Darren Grainger, will get their chance to compete when they arrive in July.

"We told them we will give them every opportunity to compete for the job," Hendrix said. "I'd be really surprised if that decision (on a starting quarterback) doesn't go well into August. There's no preconceived redshirt plans at that quarterback position. We're going to find out who our best one is."

Bios for all the new players can be found here.

2018 Furman Football Signing Class
QB Darren Grainger, 6-4, 190, Conway
QB Hamp Sisson, 6-0, 185, Birmingham, Ala.
RB Devin Abrams, 6-1, 205, Pensacola, Fla.
TB Corey Watkins, 5-9, 185, Evans, Ga.
WR Dejuan Bell, 5-9, 160, North Augusta
WR Louis Hall, 6-0, 180, Canton, Ga.
WR Zach Peterson, 6-2, 180, Roswell, Ga.
TE Ryan Miller 6-1, 205, Jackson, Tenn.
OT Anderson Tomlin, 6-5, 275, Birmingham, Ala.
DE Melton Brown, So., 6-3, 264, Louisville, Ga. (Georgia Southern)*
NG Cameron Coleman, 6-3, 285, Elizabethton, Tenn.
DT Taylor Hodge, 5-9, 255, Tyrone, Ga.
ILB Braden Gilby, 6-2, 220, St. Petersburg, Fla.
ILB Jax Hackett, 6-2, 205, Greensboro, N.C.
ILB Cooper Hardin, So., 6-1, 228, Chattanooga, Tenn. (Navy)*
CB Travis Blackshear, 5-10, 175, Savannah, Ga.
DB Jonah Griffin, 5-11, 180, Savannah, Ga.
CB Amir Trapp, Jr., 5-8, 170, Clemson (Clemson)*
S Dae'one Wilkins, 6-0, 200, Spring Hope, N.C.