Friday, December 6, 2019

Against stacked deck, Furman falls at Auburn

Noah Gurley had a game-high 21 points and eight rebounds in Furman's
81-78 overtime loss at No. 13 Auburn. Photo courtesy of Furman
After beating a pair of 2018 Final Four teams last season, the Furman basketball team had a shot at defeating a 2019 Final Four team Thursday night. But evidently "Saturdays in the SoCon" have nothing on "Thursdays on the Plains."

In what had to feel like a game of five against eight for much of the night, the Furman basketball team saw a 14-point second half lead disappear in an 81-78 overtime loss at No. 13 Auburn Thursday. On a night when the Paladins were already outsized, three of their four tallest players fouled out. The other, 6-foot-9 freshman Ben Beeker, didn't make the trip due to a family matter.

"To see what we had to deal with from an environment standpoint, the momentum changing and swinging against us ... we all would love a few plays back there at the end of regulation, but how could you be down after the fight of that group?," Furman coach Bob Richey said on the Furman Radio Network's postgame show. "Our kids just absolutely battled their tails off and I couldn't be more proud of them.
"What I take away from this is we can play with anybody. ... This team's leadership continues to develop."

The Tigers (8-0) went 19-of-29 from the foul line, while Furman (7-3) was 9-of-13. The Paladins were whistled for 27 fouls, their most in a game in three years. Ironically, Furman also had 27 fouls in an overtime loss at ETSU in the 2016-17 season and 27 in an overtime loss at Citadel in the 2015-16 season.

Despite an all-night buffet of home cooking being served, the Paladins still had their chances to win. Noah Gurley hit a jumper and was fouled with 3:38 left in regulation to give Furman a 63-58 lead, but he missed the free throw. With 3:04 left, Clay Mounce hit just 1-of-2 free throws to push the lead to 64-60. After that, Furman missed a 3-pointer and three consecutive layups before Auburn's J'Von McCormick hit a game-tying jumper with 1:05 left.

Mike Bothwell ventured into the trees of the paint and made a go-ahead layup with 30 seconds left before McCormick answered again with a jumper to tie the game 66-66 with 14 seconds left. Bothwell came all the way down to try to win it as he did eight days earlier against UT-Arlington, but as he drove to the basket he fell to the ground after contact with the defender. Officials ruled that Bothwell traveled and Auburn got the ball back with 5.1 seconds left. After a screen in which Jordan Lyons got annihilated, McCormick soared to the basket but his layup fell off no good as time expired.

"You want to get the last shot and Mike went a little too early, but fortunately it didn't cost us the game. We couldn't hear anything (to call for screens) ... so the best thing to do it spread it out and let him drive like he did versus Arlington," Richey said. "He'd been doing the best job of our guards of driving, landing on two feet and then passing out for a three. ... The best plays usually in those situations are not going to be draw-ups. It's going to be a player going to make a play.
"It was away from me, so I couldn't see what made him lose his balance. Unfortunately, he did lose it, couldn't land and couldn't have a clean finish."

Gurley hit a 3-pointer to give Furman a 69-68 lead 35 seconds into overtime. One minute later, Auburn's Austin Wiley went over Gurley's back for a putback and Gurley was called for his fifth foul.

Mounce's 3-pointer with 1:35 left cut Auburn's lead to 75-73. Thirty-eight seconds later, officials deemed it time for Mounce to go as he picked up his fifth foul on a box out. Wiley hit both free throws to make it a four-point lead.

The Tigers still led by four with 12 seconds left when officials saved their "best" for last. As Alex Hunter passed from near midcourt with a trajectory toward the left corner of Furman's basket, the ball was tipped and sailed out of bounds. After first correctly ruling that the ball deflected off an Auburn defender, officials went to review the video and somehow gave the ball back to the Tigers.

They ruled that Hunter - the point guard who didn't have a turnover for the first five games this season - somehow threw a basketball like a baseball slider as it went straight then broke left. Coming out of the review, Auburn players and coaches were laughing, knowing they'd been bailed out.

While that play was the most obvious example of malfeasance, it really wasn't a difference maker. It didn't hurt Furman nearly as much as Mounce's fourth foul with 10:34 left in the second half when he made no contact on an Auburn layup that cut the Paladins lead to 48-44. Or with Furman leading 59-54 and 5:40 left, when Gurley picked up his fourth foul on an illegal screen after he handed the ball off to Lyons and simply turned around. Poor Jalen Slawson, a sophomore who can find foul trouble in normal officiating situations, didn't have a prayer Thursday. He saw the court for all of eight minutes before fouling out with 9:21 left in the game.

"We dealt with foul trouble all night long. We've got to go back and look at that to see what we're doing," Richey said. "The past couple of games we've fouled a little bit more than typical."

Despite being outrebounded 18-8 and having 12 fouls (three apiece on Gurley and Slawson) to Auburn's five in the first half, Furman took a 39-31 lead into halftime. The Paladins ended the half on a 13-1 run highlighted by back-to-back 3-pointers by reserve Jaylon Pugh. As the teams left for the locker room, Auburn's Bruce Pearl stayed on the court a bit longer to rip into an official. Evidently, the 12-0 free throw disparity the Tigers enjoyed in the first half wasn't enough for their notorious snake oil salesman.

Lyons made it an 11-point lead when he popped a 3-pointer 24 seconds into the second half. Furman still led by double figures three minutes later when another maniacal fit by Pearl actually drew a technical foul. Despite three fouls being called against them over the next 1:52, the Paladins still led 48-37 with less than 14 minutes to go.

A key six-minute stretch allowed Auburn to get back in it. From the 16:09 mark to the 10:09 mark, Furman went 0-for-5 from the floor, had five turnovers and saw it's 46-32 lead shrink to 48-45. After a Gurley three-point play stopped the Paladins drought, they missed their next three shots and had a turnover as the Tigers got the lead down to 53-51 with 7:41 to play.

Furman shot 45.9 percent from the floor, but only 33.3 percent in the second half. The Paladins held Auburn to 4-of-25 (16 percent) shooting on 3-pointers and forced 19 turnovers, but were outrebounded 45-25.

Gurley finished with a game-high 21 points and eight rebounds to lead Furman, while Mounce had 14 points, six rebounds and four steals. Hunter, Lyons and Pugh each scored 11 and Hunter had five assists. Bothwell scored nine.

No comments:

Post a Comment