Saturday, November 23, 2019

Paladins collect lopsided win, needed rest

Tre Clark had eight points and 10 deflections in Furman's 90-45 win
over Columbia International Friday. Photo courtesy of Furman
Coming off its first loss and a long bus ride home from Alabama Tuesday night, Furman got just what the doctor ordered Friday night. The Paladins took a a big enough lead in the first half that their normal rotation got plenty of rest in a 90-45 win over NAIA member Columbia International.

Noah Gurley had 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting, along with a game-high four assists, three steals and no turnovers to lead the way for Furman, which had no starter play more than 21 minutes. Jordan Lyons scored 14, while Alex Hunter and Mike Bothwell each had 12 also for the Paladins.

After barely shooting 30 percent from the floor in the loss at Alabama Tuesday, the Paladins hit 64.4 percent from the floor Friday, including 25-of-36 (69.4 percent) in the first half. Furman finished with 21 assists and nine turnovers.

"It was a complete performance across the board tonight and I was proud of our focus," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "I thought (the rest) was critical. We got in at 5 a.m. Wednesday morning and everybody was pretty exhausted. ... Yesterday, everybody was still kind of dragging but there were things we had to do practice-wise just to get ready for today.
"We'll take tomorrow off, which we all desperately need. We will get back to work Sunday and Monday and gear up to go be ready to play 80 minutes of Furman basketball in back-to-back days, which isn't easy. It's going to be a lot, but this group will be ready to roll."

As part of the Battle 4 Atlantis, Furman will play at Elon Tuesday at 7 p.m., then face UT Arlington on Elon's home court Wednesday at 3 p.m.

Columbia International, which trailed Mercer by five at the half and Charleston Southern by six at the half in other games against Division I competition this year, hung around early on Friday. Furman held a four-point lead before outscoring the Rams 33-5 over the final 11:35 of the half to take a 55-23 lead into halftime.

"We weren't too pleased with how we played in the last home game last Friday against Southern Wesleyan," Lyons said. "We knew we had to come in with a better mentality and more locked in and focused. ... I think everyone that played, played really hard and were connected."

What keyed that huge first-half spurt was defense, specifically a 1-3-1 look that offered up plenty of traps that Columbia International could not escape. That led to many of Furman's season-high 38 deflections. Ten of those were by Tre Clark, who also had eight points, four rebounds, two assists and two blocks in a team-high 23 minutes off the bench.

"Tre Clark was phenomenal tonight. That's the first double-digit deflection game anyone has had since Matt Rafferty last year," Richey said. "It was a great effort from our guys, especially from the defensive end tonight. We had the right focus on that end to start the game and to start the second half with that sizable margin at halftime."

Friday's game offered Furman's reserves their most extended on-court time this season and freshman Ben Beeker took advantage. After playing only 15 minutes all season, Beeker logged 18 Friday. While he only had two points, he also had five rebounds, three assists, one steal, no turnovers and a ton of hustle.

There were plenty of highlight reel plays Friday, including thunderous dunks by Jalen Slawson on back-to-back possessions, a give-and-go play where Gurley made a gorgeous bounce pass to Lyons as he soared in for a layup and alley oop passes for dunks by Clark and Clay Mounce.

Beeker got his highlight when he had a full extension dive to the floor for a loose ball. Careful not to travel, Beeker was on his back at midcourt when he made a no-look (because really was in no position to clearly see) pass to Lyons for a 3-point attempt. While Lyons shot rattled out, Bothwell was there for an easy putback.

"He's a smart kid and you can tell he's a kid who really wants its," Lyons said. "All the things that we try to embody in our culture, Ben's done a good job of showing he's willing to do that. ... For a freshman to already buy into it every day, that's awesome."

Furman has essentially used a seven-man rotation thus far this season. Beeker may have forced an expansion of that.

"If I'm being 100 percent honest, we've been trying to give it (another rotation spot) to another guard, but after watching his limited minutes, practice and tonight ... when you have a player that's trying to play the right way, whose bought into how we want to play and doing it with an effort we want, I think it's on us as a staff at that point to get it figured it out," Richey said. "That's why he was eighth (in the rotation) tonight and if he keeps doing what he's doing, he's probably going to stay there (and play more)."

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