|A packed student section was part of a raucous home crowd at Furman|
Saturday for the Paladins' double-overtime win. Photo courtesy of Furman
On Monday afternoon, Furman recorded a first off the floor when it entered this week's AP Top 25 poll at No. 25. It's the first time in school history the Paladins have been ranked. Shortly after the poll was released at noon, Coach Bob Richey's day got off course.
"I'm sitting here watching film on (Tuesday's opponent) Elon and all of a sudden, my phone starts blowing up," Richey said. "You've got to celebrate great moments, but at the same time you've got to make sure you focus on substance, not hype.
"We've got to continue to focus on what got us to this point. If you keep doing things, there will be more 'first times.' If you get caught up in these things, you can set yourself up for disappointment."
Furman is the first SoCon team to appear in the AP poll since a Stephen Curry-led Davidson team was ranked No. 22 on Dec. 15, 2008.
The ranking comes after Furman's off to its first 8-0 start in school history. The start has been marked by thrilling, signature wins over two of last year's Final Four participants in Loyola-Chicago and Villanova, as well as Jordan Lyons' tying the NCAA's single-game record for 3-pointers with 15. After going eight years without an overtime win, Saturday's victory moved Furman to 3-0 in overtime games this season. The last time the Paladins had three overtime wins was in the 1960-61 season.
"This is a great group that has a ton of resolve. We've been fortunate to win a lot of close games in some gritty environments and in some wild circumstances," Richey said. "We're looking forward to continuing to build with this group."
Home court advantage
Furman coaches and players agreed that Saturday's raucous crowd deserved a lot of credit in helping the Paladins pull out the victory. A crowd of 2,131 showed up on Saturday to create an atmosphere not seen all that often at Timmons Arena, but this year's team has certainly earned a home environment like that. Among those in the crowd was nearly 500 Furman students.
"There was a phenomenal energy in the gym today. That was a big-time effort by our students to come out. Besides Wofford (games), I can't remember having students come out like that," Richey said afterwards. "We want to make sure that we thank those students. That means a lot and is really important to us.
"I'm just thankful that we were able to find a way to get a win for them and for the community. It's nice to see that energy coming."
After struggling to hit shots for much of the night, Lyons nailed the game-tying 3-pointer with 22 seconds left to force overtime. He ended up with a game-high 29 points. Matt Rafferty (21 points, 15 rebounds), Clay Mounce (17 points, 13 rebounds) and Alex Hunter (11 points, 10 assists) had double-doubles Saturday.
"The crowd was amazing tonight. This is one of the best home environments that I've been in, if not the best since I've been here," Lyons said. "That really fuels us. In a double-overtime game like this, the fans are rocking and the place is loud. As players, we feed off that energy.
"Hopefully they continue to come out, because they don't even know how much we appreciate it as players. It helps us much more than they know. ... They truly helped us get this win."
Saturday's clutch shot was just another in what's becoming a trend for Lyons this season. In each of the Paladins' four close wins this season, Lyons has had a significant score down the stretch.
- Furman trailed by at many as 13 in the second half at Loyola. The Paladins came all the way back to pull even on Lyons' 3-pointer with 3:02 left.
- Against Gardner-Webb, Furman trailed 83-80 when Lyons hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 2:07 left. Just more than 20 seconds later, Lyons had a steal and layup that gave the Paladins the lead for good.
- Furman trailed Villanova 60-58 with 48 seconds left in regulation when Lyons sank a pair of free throws to help force overtime.