Thursday, November 7, 2019

Paladins set for rematch with Ramblers

Furman point guard Alex Hunter and head coach
Bob Richey. Photo courtesy of Furman
The last time Timmons Arena hosted a Furman basketball game, the Paladins and a team from the Midwest put on an absolute classic in front of an electric crowd. The next game at Timmons could prove to be quite similar.

The Paladins open the home portion of their 2019-20 season Friday night against Loyola-Chicago. It's a rematch of last year's thriller on a Friday night in the Windy City that started Furman's historic season rolling. The Paladins trailed the 2018 Final Four participant by 13 points in the second half before rallying for a 60-58 win on Clay Mounce's game-winning dunk with 1.6 seconds left.

That was one of a school record 25 wins Furman posted last season before falling to Wichita State in the Paladins' first-ever home NIT game. Loyola went on to go 20-14 last season and won a share of the Missouri Valley Conference regular season title. The Ramblers also lost in the opening round of last year's NIT at Creighton.

Furman is coming off a 70-63 win Tuesday at 2018-19 Big South champion Gardner-Webb. Noah Gurley scored 18 points, Alex Hunter had 13, and Clay Mounce had 11 as the Paladins handed the Runnin' Bulldogs their first home loss in 21 months.

Loyola opened its season at home Tuesday and whipped UC Davis, 82-48. The Ramblers' 6-foot-9 junior center, Cameron Krutwig, had 15 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds in just 26 minutes to lead the way, while Tate Hall had 14 points, nine rebounds and four steals.

The game, which is scheduled for 7 p.m., has a "purple out" theme and all fans are encouraged to wear purple.

"We're facing another really good team and it's going to be a fun night," Furman coach Bob Richey said of the matchup. "Everybody come out and let's pack Timmons."

Faster, wider offense
While the biggest key to Tuesday's win was Furman staying connected on defense, there were also signs of the more up tempo and spread out offense that Richey talked about in the offseason. The ability to knock down an open shot for any Paladin on the floor was evident.

There probably would not have been many winning bets on who would make Furman's first 3-pointers this year. It wasn't Jordan Lyons, who made a school record 105 last season. It wasn't Mounce, who hit 41.7 percent (53-of-127) of his last season. It wasn't Hunter, who connected on 59 last season.

Instead it was the Paladins' two bigs, Gurley and Jalen Slawson, and Mike Bothwell. Last season, Gurley hit 34-of-108 from beyond the arc, while Bothwell was 13-of-38 and Slawson was 2-of-12. A key to them getting open looks Tuesday was Lyons, who had an assist on each one.

"We definitely get up and down with Slawson and Noah running," Hunter said. "Those bigs can play on the perimeter as well, so that opens up the lane for us."

Immediate impact
One other noticeable thing Tuesday was the immediate impact made by Furman's reserves. The first man off the bench was Tre Clark, who checked in at the 16:41 mark. Seven seconds later, he blocked a shot. Mike Bothwell came in at the 16:31 mark. At 16:04, he hit a 3-pointer to make it a 9-2 game.

The Paladins essentially used eight players Tuesday and the third man off the bench was Jaylon Pugh. After he first came in at the 12:47 mark of the first half, he took a charge at the 11:55 mark and was fouled shooting a 3-pointer 14 seconds later.

In the second half, Clark checked in at he 17:06 mark. Thirty seconds later, he grabbed an offensive rebound and dished to Lyons for a 3-pointer.

"This team has so many weapons," Gurley said. "We all have full confidence in each other."

Richey said it's obviously still early and the Paladins have things to clean up, but he's excited about watching this team grow.

"We played four old guys tonight and four sophomores and everybody that played tonight had an impact," Richey said. "I'm telling you, those sophomores are just going to keep getting better and better."

Lyons on Henson list
Lyons has been named to the Lou Henson Award watch list. The award is given to the top mid-major men's basketball in the country each year. Lyons is coming off a season in which he averaged 16.2 points per game and tied the Division I record for 3-pointers in a game with 15 as part of a 54-point performance against North Greenville.

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