Saturday, January 5, 2019

Paladins crash the boards to roll over Citadel

Jordan Lyons had 17 points and a terrific defensive effort in Furman's
101-85 win over The Citadel Saturday. Photo courtesy of Furman
When facing a frenetic offense like The Citadel's, opponents are bound to give up some offensive rebounds simply because of the long ones produced by the many 3-pointers that are launched. But that wasn't the case for Furman Saturday. Despite the Bulldogs missing 29 shots from beyond the arc, they had only three offensive rebounds - none of which came after halftime. That's the fewest offensive rebounds for Citadel since it's season-opening loss at Clemson.

That rebounding effort was a big part of a dominant second half by the Paladins as Furman pulled away for a 101-85 win before a sellout crowd at Timmons Arena. The Paladins outrebounded their biggest rival 53-28 for the game. In the second half, Furman (14-2, 3-1 Southern Conference) had more offensive rebounds (11) than Citadel had total rebounds. The Paladins had 30-10 rebounding edge overall after halftime.

"It was a big emphasis that 'we can't go until we get it.' ... It's just a mentality and I thought we came with it today to hold them to at least one (shot). That was going to allow us to be able to get out in transition," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "It was a phenomenal basketball game. Citadel was hitting everything in the first half and it was back-and-forth.
"For us to play four halves in a 72-hour window and have to play against that pace in the second game, for our fourth half to be the best one of those four is a statement of the character of this group."

Matt Rafferty made all six of his field goal attempts in the first half on his way to a career-high 28-point night to lead the Paladins. He also had 12 rebounds and three steals. One of the most important contributions Rafferty made Saturday didn't really show up in the boxscore though.

"The reason we were able to handle their press is because I was crazy enough to put our five-man (Rafferty) in press offense," Richey said. "Usually against presses, you're going to see a two-guard front but I've got my five-man out there taking the trap. He's making all the right reads through it, which allowed us to be able to have our best handlers and decision makers up and we were able to get pretty good shots behind it."

Rafferty was one of five scorers in double figures for Furman. Jordan Lyons had 17 points, Noah Gurley and Clay Mounce each had 15 and Alex Hunter scored 13. Mounce and Gurley tied their respective career-highs in rebounds with 13 and eight, respectively. Tre Clark also had a career-high nine rebounds - six offensive - in just 20 minutes off the bench. Clark also had six points, four steals and two assists.

"We did a good job of boxing out and our guards did a great job of rebounding down, helping the bigs out," Rafferty said.

The first half was a back-and-forth contest that had six ties and 10 lead changes. The Bulldogs (9-5, 1-2) went on an 8-0 run over the final 1:15 to take a 46-43 lead into the break.

The last tie of the day was snapped on Lyons' 3-point play with 16:23 left that gave Furman a lead it never relinquished. The Paladins held a 79-73 lead with less than eight minutes before a big final run helped put the game out of reach. Lyons' 3-pointer with 7:27 started an 18-2 run. Lyons capped the spurt on a free throw with 2:18 left that pushed Furman's lead to 97-75.

"We knew there was going to be spurts in the game where they were going to make runs. We knew we just had to stay with it through the highs and lows. If they made a run and hit a couple of 3s, we had to keep a positive mentality," Lyons said. "Down the stretch, we did a good job of sticking together and extending the margin."

Some of Furman's defensive success went beyond the rebounding dominance. That was highlighted by Lyons' effort on Citadel sharpshooter Matt Frierson. Frierson entered Saturday's game averaging 16.5 points per game and No. 2 in the nation with 4.8 made 3-pointers per game. On Saturday, Frierson was held to three points on 1-of-5 shooting, all from beyond the arc.

Citadel graduate senior Lew Stallworth was a beast for much of Saturday, driving his way to the basket for tough shots for much of the game. While he finished with 23 points and six assists, none of those came down the stretch. After making a jumper to cut Furman's lead to 79-73 with 7:45 left, Stallworth had no points or assists the rest of the way as he was hounded by Clark defensively.

"I thought it was one of Jordan's best defensive games of the year. He took the challenge," Richey said. "They way he chased through the hand-offs, he didn't have any lapses in his perimeter defense."

After getting back on track with a pair of wins at home this week, Furman sets out on a three-game road trip starting Thursday at VMI at 7 p.m.

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