|Jordan Lyons and Jalen Slawson celebrate in Furman's 87-63 win over Loyola
Chicago in the Paladins' home opener Friday. Photo courtesy of Furman
One year after Clay Mounce's slam with 1.6 seconds left lifted Furman to a 60-58 win at Loyola Chicago, he took down the Ramblers from the outside in Friday's rematch at Timmons Arena. Mounce hit five 3-pointers and combined with Jordan Lyons for 46 points as the Paladins rolled to an 87-63 win.
Mounce's dunk last year was replayed all over ESPN and capped a rally over the 2018 Final Four participant that set the wheels in motion on Furman's historic 25-win season. That led to an absolutely electric atmosphere for Friday's rematch. The student section was overflowing 30 minutes before tip off. It was a sight so impressive that Loyola coach Porter Moser applauded the students and shook some of their hands in the pregame.
It was a home opener unlike senior Jordan Lyons has ever experienced.
"That crowd was unbelievable - the students and the community. They don't even know how much we appreciate that," Lyons said. "They did an unbelievable job of having energy, enthusiasm and excitement and we fueled off it. That was a big factor in helping us win a game like that versus a team like that."
By the start of the game Timmons Arena was full and the crowd got quite a treat. After taking a six-point lead into halftime, Furman (2-0) shot 64.3 percent from the floor in the second half. Lyons had 17 of his game-high 24 points in the second half as the Paladins outscored the Ramblers 53-35 after the break.
"To beat an opponent of that quality by that margin, it's a credit to our guys, our connection, our intensity and our effort," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "We didn't always play perfect, but we sustained our intensity. I didn't feel any effort lulls in the course of the 40 minutes.
"I want to thank our administration, our AD Jason Donnelly and everybody that was involved ... in the whole operation of getting these students here. You can put that atmosphere against anybody - especially at this level. There's not many places you could've gone to watch college basketball tonight and felt that energy."
Loyola (1-1), which defeated UC Davis 82-48 in its season opener Tuesday, cut the lead to four on a layup 12 seconds into the second half. The Ramblers wouldn't get any closer though. Noah Gurley, who led the Paladins with 18 points in its season opening win Tuesday, made his first shot of the night on a dunk 13 seconds later and Mounce drilled a 3-pointer and Furman was on its way to a blowout.
The Ramblers got as close as seven with 13:22 to play and there was no scoring by either team for the next couple of minutes. With 11:39 left, Mounce got a jumper to fall and Lyons hit a 3-pointer a minute later. That helped start a 9-0 capped by Jalen Slawson's electric dunk, which was only spoiled by a terrible technical foul call for hanging on the rim. Loyola made its free throw and got a layup on its possession but never got the lead under 14 the rest of the way.
"In our walk-through, coach talked about the 34-6 run they went on last year up there. So with 10 minutes left ... that's still anybody's game," said Slawson, who nearly tripled his career-high with 14 points. "You just have to stay locked in. It's not an option not to."
Furman took a 34-28 lead into halftime, but probably felt like it should've led by more. The Paladins forced 13 turnovers in the first half, but had just eight points off those. Some of those missed opportunities came on layups, which Furman was 6-of-12 on in the first half.
The Paladins jumped out to a 5-0 lead on a Mounce 3-pointer and a Slawson steal and dunk. Furman trailed for just 17 seconds in the opening half and held Loyola scoreless for one stretch of 3:23 and another stretch of 5:05 in the first half. The Paladins took their biggest lead of the half at 34-24 on Mounce's third 3-pointer before Loyola scored the final two buckets, including a layup at the buzzer.
In the second half, Furman forced nine more turnovers - while only committing three - and scored 13 points off of those. The Paladins were 11-of-12 on layups in the second half and outscored Loyola 18-2 on fastbreak points for the game.
"When you shoot 64 percent in the second half, that means those are quality shots. We got a bunch of layups and most of the 3s we took were pretty open," Richey said. "I thought our ability to take care of the ball was critical, to go an entire game with only nine turnovers. Because of that, they only scored two points in transition. Outscoring them 18-2 in transition was a huge difference in the game."
Another key for Furman Friday was limiting Loyola big man Cameron Krutwig, a first team All-Missouri Valley pick last season, who had eight points, four rebounds and five assists. Rather than double team him as many teams have done, it was Mounce and Slawson and taking on the solo responsibility.
In addition to his 24-point effort, Lyons tied Alex Hunter for the team lead in assists with five and had a game-high three steals. The Paladins' other double figure scorer was Mike Bothwell, who had 10 points and four rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench. So the two leading scorers from Tuesday's opener (Gurley and Alex Hunter) weren't among the top four scorers Friday. That says quite a deal about this team four days into the season.
"It's a credit to the program. ... This whole program is built on connection," Richey said of the scoring being spread out. "We've got a lot of weapons out there and so we've got to get in the game and see what's working.
"Every night, who's going to step up? I don't know, but that's why I love coaching this group and that's the danger of this team."