Wednesday, December 12, 2018

No. 23 Furman topples Bucs, improves to 11-0

Furman's Andrew Brown had 16 points in the Paladins' 77-69
win over Charleston Southern Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Furman
In its first ever home game as a ranked team, No. 23 Furman took on Charleston Southern in front a of another packed house with an unprecedented media presence at Timmons Arena Tuesday. And well, things didn't go exactly perfect.

On Tuesday, the Paladins:

  • committed a season-worst 18 turnovers
  • allowed an opponent to hit 45.5 percent of its 3-pointers for the first time this season
  • got a total of three points from their first- and third-leading scorers
And what did it all add up to? Furman improving to 11-0, naturally. Five Paladins scored in double figures and Furman enjoyed another hot second half to secure a 77-69 win. The way they won Tuesday was simply as case of the Paladins doing special teams doing what special teams do. Furman's first home win over a Division I opponent that didn't require overtime this year gave the Paladins an 11-game winning streak for the first time since 1979.

"I'm proud of our guys. We're entering finals, which is always a hard deal around Furman," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "We've had to balance a lot and haven't had the finals break that teams typically take.
"We had to do this (Tuesday's game) on one-day prep. We didn't finish the game quite as well as I'd like, but you know what? It was a deal where, for some reason, the last three games we've had really key second halves. We made some big runs to create some separation."

Noah Gurley greeted the raucous crowd as Timmons with a thunderous dunk to open the scoring for Furman. Less than a minute later, Gurley drained a 3-pointer that elicited a crowd reaction that made it seem like Timmons' roof was going to blow off. Those scores kicked off a career-high 17-point night for Gurley. Hunter continued his December to remember with 16 points, while Andrew Brown came off the bench to score 16 points in 21 minutes.

On a night when leading scorer Jordan Lyons (20.2 points per game entering Tuesday) was shut out, second-leading scorer Matt Rafferty (17.9 ppg) was four off his average and Clay Mounce (12.6 ppg) had three points, Furman shot 47.5 percent from the floor, including 56.5 percent in the second half. The Paladins, who had 16 assists, hit 44.4 percent (12-of-27) of their 3-pointers.

"Jordan Lyons and Clay Mounce competed. They just didn't have the offensive nights they'd like to have, but we had guys step up," Richey said. "That's what you have when you have a winning program.
"Give Charleston Southern a lot of credit. I thought they played outstanding and really hard. They shot the ball with great conviction."

Brown was in his second game back since suffering a foot injury at Loyola in the opening week of the season. He staked Furman to a 24-15 lead on a 3-pointer with 12:26 left in the first half, but Charleston Southern (4-5) came back with a 13-4 run over the next 4:56 to tie the game. Another massive dunk by Gurley late in the half helped the Paladins carry a 37-34 lead into the break.

After his fourth 3-pointer of the night, Brown showed just how fully healthy he is. Brown blocked a shot that Rafferty corralled for a rebound. Rafferty then fired a perfect pass to a streaking Brown, who dunked it home to push Furman's lead to 51-42 with 13:27 left. While that series of events showed Brown is a lot more than a 3-point specialist, it also encapsulated another brilliant performance across the board by Rafferty. In addition to his 14 points, Rafferty had 14 rebounds, six assists, four steals and three blocked shots.

"It's a lot of fun to be back out there. It's different when you're on the sidelines watching. It's been so awesome watching the guys play unbelievable," Brown said. "I didn't have to do anything crazy tonight. We were 10-0. It wasn't like we needed some huge spark.
"I was feeling good today and some shots were falling. The guys kept looking for me and that's what it's about. It's about finding the right guy for that night."

Over the next three-and-a-half minutes, the Bucs - who hit 10-of-22 3-pointers - went on a 10-3 run to cut the lead to 54-52 with 9:46 left. Furman responded with a 14-4 run of its own. During the run, the Paladins got 3-pointers by Tre Clark, Hunter and Gurley. Gurley's three gave Furman a 68-56 lead with 5:53 left and the Paladins never were seriously threatened the rest of the way.

Despite facing the Bucs' pressing defense all night, Hunter nearly made it two games in a row without a turnover. He suffered one with 41 seconds left. That marked his first turnover since the 16:49 mark of the first half against Elon two games ago. The sophomore point guard is also averaging 13.8 points per game in four games this month.

"From the beginning of the year, my coaches and teammates have been telling me to play more confidently. They did last year, but it's been even more this year with me having a bigger role," Hunter said. "This month, I've just been playing freely and not overthinking things. It's just starting to come together."

Clark was the other Paladin in double figures with a career-high 11 points and he also had a career-high four steals. The sophomore also helped hold CSU leading scorer Christian Keeling (19.5 ppg) to 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting.

"Tre Clark's probably my MVP of this one without watching it on film. His defense on Keeling was exceptional," Richey said. "He played really, really hard and gave this team a spurt."
"The great lesson with Tre Clark is most humans could've easily equated Andrew coming back to their role reducing and not having the mental preparation to be successful in a game like tonight. What he did was he kept working, stayed engaged and kept his belief. And we needed both of them tonight."

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