Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Lyons, Paladins ring in the New Year in style

Jordan Lyons scored 40 points in Furman's 89-73 win
at VMI on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Furman
Some believe whatever you're doing when the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve, you'll be doing for the rest of the new year. Based on Jordan Lyons' performance Wednesday afternoon, he might have found an open gym somewhere around Lexington, Virginia late Tuesday night.

Lyons became the first Furman player to have two 40-point games in their career in 64 years as the Paladins celebrated New Year's Day with an 89-73 win at VMI. Lyons, who had a career-high 54 points and a NCAA record 15 3-pointers against North Greenville last season, had his career-best in both categories against a Division I opponent Wednesday. Lyons hit 10-of-12 shots from three, went 8-for-8 from the foul line, and finished with a game-high 40 points along with a game-high four assists.

The last Paladin to have two games with at least 40 points was Darrell Floyd, who did it 13 times in his legendary career that wrapped up in 1956. It was only the sixth 40-point game for a Paladin since 1956.

"I didn't come into the game trying to get 40. I just tried to play the right way on both ends of the floor," Lyons said on the Furman Basketball Radio Network's postgame show. "My teammates did a really good job of getting me open and finding me when I was open. Today was just one of those where I felt in the zone ... and the rim just gets bigger and bigger."

Wednesday's game was the ninth consecutive win in the series for Furman since a 34-point loss at VMI five years ago. Every one of those nine wins have been a margin of anywhere from 12 to 34 points.

It wasn't the cleanest game for the Paladins (12-3, 2-0 Southern Conference), as it was a rare occurrence where they had more turnovers (16) than assists (12). Half of those turnovers came in the game's first two minutes (two) and last five minutes (six), but Furman did plenty of good things in between to get the lopsided win.

"After about the first four or five minutes of the game, where we getting great movement for the most part which got them out of their (defensive) matchup. We also got them out of the 1-2-2 press and they've been stubborn with that," Furman coach Bob Richey said on the postgame show. "Did we play perfect? Absolutely not, but you're not going to play perfect."

After an 11-day break since its last game, Furman looked a little rusty early as it trailed 13-10 with 11 minutes left in the first half. That's when Lyons got cooking. Over the next 1:48, Lyons outscored VMI 12-2 on three 3-pointers and three free throws after he was fouled on another. After Noah Gurley scored Furman's next six points, Lyons drilled another three to put the Paladins up 31-18 with 5:52 left in the first half. Furman never led by less than eight the rest of the way.

Lyons helped put the game out of reach with a ridiculous five-minute stretch midway through the second half. From the 11:35 mark to the 6:41 mark, Furman took it's lead from 57-42 to 75-52. Of those 18 points, Lyons scored 15 (four 3-pointers and three free throws after being fouled on another) and had an assist on Clay Mounce's three.

"Jordan was just phenomenal and it wasn't just that he scored. He was flying around on defense, had four assists and two turnovers," Richey said. "You've got to go play the game the right way. You can't compartmentalize it. He did a good job of that."

Mounce and Jalen Slawson each scored 13 points, while Gurley finished with 10. Slawson also pulled down 10 rebounds for the sophomore's first career double-double.

"I told Slawson in the hallway before the game, 'tonight, you're going to get a double-double. You go get the 10 boards and the points will come,' " Richey said. "He's had a heck of a week of practice and he earned the right to perform well."

Sean Conway had 15 points and five steals off the bench to lead the Keydets (5-10, 0-2).

Furman returns home to face ETSU in a huge SoCon showdown Saturday at 4 p.m. It will be a match-up of the fifth- (ETSU) and ninth-ranked teams in the's Mid-Major poll.

"They're (games) are all the same, but sometimes some are bigger and this is a huge game," Richey said. "It's going to be a high-level basketball game between two teams that play really hard. Both teams have different types of identity, but both teams have an identity. It's going to be a fight."

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