|Jordan Lyons scored 26 points in Furman's 80-73 win over Winthrop at|
the Bon Secours Wellness Arena Saturday. Photo courtesy of Furman
Playing at the venue formerly known as the Bi-Lo Center for the first time in 13 seasons, the Paladins (10-3) recorded their first win there since a victory over Georgia Southern in the second round of the 2000 Southern Conference Tournament. While the official attendance was 2,752, it sure looked, felt and sounded like at least 3,000 fans attended.
"I think people walked in here and saw all this purple and felt the energy. Our players felt it. I think anybody that came tonight has to be walking away saying, 'that's a connected group that plays really hard,' " Furman coach Bob Richey said. "I think this is a start. We've got a great deal and atmosphere at Timmons Arena, but at the same time this gives it a whole other realm.
"If we can produce this energy and that's the start, where can this go? That's how I think and that's how my AD thinks. ... We appreciate everyone coming out and getting behind us."
While Lyons hit 2-of-5 3-pointers in Wednesday's win over North Greenville, that left him with just four makes in his last 31 attempts from. But in the first half Saturday, Lyons was 4-of-6 from beyond the arc.
"I knew it was coming. Jordan's a shooter. I just kept telling him to focus on his routine and don't worry about the result," Richey said. "We came in here (to practice) Thursday and I don't know if he missed. ... So I had a feeling. I told our coaches before the game, 'he's got the look.' "
The perimeter shooting opened up other avenues for scoring as Lyons was also part of a big night at the foul line for Furman. He hit 10-of-13 free throws as the Paladins made 20-of-28 for the game.
"Even though my shot's been struggling a little bit, my coaching staff and teammates have never doubted me. They still put that confidence in me every day," Lyons said. "Tonight was really awesome. ... It was good to see a couple go in and kind of feel that rhythm back.
"We were really excited for this game. The community and the university really did a good job. The energy and atmosphere was awesome and we all fed off it."
Being back in downtown Greenville created a lot of hype for this matchup and the atmosphere accelerated quickly thanks to the start made by each team. Playing on a neutral floor in a big arena can often cause shooting problems for teams, but Furman hit its first three 3-pointers while Winthrop drained its first two.
The game was tied 28-28 with less than six minutes to go in the first half when Lyons spurred a run. He hit back-to-back 3-pointers then got fouled on his next one and made two of the free throws to cap a 10-0 run. After Winthrop got the lead down to 40-33 with 3:01 left, Furman scored the last six points of the half thanks to four free throws by Lyons sandwiched around a Noah Gurley jumper.
"Pushing the margin to 13 was key, but then we came out in the second half and pushed it a little bit more," Richey said. "I'm proud of a lot of our guys. Everybody contributed tonight.
"You might not necessarily see in the stats, but what Tre Clark did defensively was incredible. He really changed the game with his defense."
After four turnovers in the first 3:49 of the game, Furman had just one the rest of the half. After a turnover 10 seconds into the second half, the Paladins didn't have another until there was 12:10 left to play. By that time, Furman had built a 61-43 lead.
That lead stretched to as many as 19 with less than seven minutes to play. That hefty lead allowed the Paladins to close out the win despite not having a field goal following Lyons' only one of the second half with 4:21 left.
Furman finished with 19 assists (on 26 made baskets) and 11 turnovers - none of which were committed by the guard duo of Lyons and Alex Hunter. After hitting 5-of-10 3-pointers in the first half, Winthrop was limited to 3-of-18 shooting from three in the second half.
After a slow start shooting-wise, Clay Mounce finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for Furman. Gurley overcame a nasty dislocated finger in the second half to finish with 15 points and nine rebounds. Gurley exited with the injury early in the second half before returning just a couple of minutes later with his right index finger and middle finger taped together.
Hunter Hale led Winthrop (4-7) with 17 points on 6-of-19 shooting. D.J. Burns, a 6-foot-9, 260-pound transfer from Tennessee who was averaging 11.5 points per game for the Eagles, had two points Saturday before fouling out with 8:52 to play. In his 11 minutes of play, Burns had two rebounds and four turnovers.
"We knew we had to do a great job on Burns and man, did we. Our whole deal is connection. We're not going to be able to guard you 1-on-1, but we can guard you with five locked in," Richey said. "For 35 minutes, I thought we were a locked in bunch. There's a tendency when you get that big a margin to think it's over, but give them (Winthrop) credit for continuing to fight."