Thursday, January 23, 2020

Paladins bounce back in big way, rout Samford

Noah Gurley had 19 points in Furman's 101-78 win over
Samford Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Furman
Between how Furman played last Friday at Wofford and how it played the last time Samford came to town, the Paladins had plenty of motivation to get back on track Wednesday night against the Bulldogs. And boy did they. Furman had more points in the first five-and-a-half minutes (20) than it did in the first half last Friday (18) and rolled to a record-setting 101-78 win.

The Paladins (16-5, 6-2 Southern Conference) bounced back from a 66-52 loss last time out against Wofford and avenged last season's 75-73 home loss to Samford thanks in large part to 17 3-pointers, 30 assists and 21 forced turnovers.

The 17 threes ties the school record for most in a single game against Division I competition, which has been done a handful of times and most recently this season at Elon. The 30 assists was one shy of the modern day school record for a single game. The Paladins had 31 assists - and 17 threes - in a 107-67 over The Citadel two years ago. That was also the last time Furman reached triple digits in points prior to Wednesday.

"Two things we really wanted to focus on was our ball movement and our deflections. We haven't had a 20-assist game (against a Div. I opponent) and tonight we have 30. That was huge," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "We had 24 deflections tonight, which does not seem like an extreme number but for us, it's better. We've only had two 20-deflection games in the league. We've been hitting these 13 and 14 totals that we've got to get away from.
"Tonight's a testament to our player-led leadership. Jordan (Lyons), Clay (Mounce), Alex (Hunter) and Tre's (Clark) leadership over these last three or four days has been critical. Their response has been outstanding and I think you saw that out on the court tonight."

Furman controlled the opening tip and 14 seconds in, Mounce missed an open 3-pointer. Hunter chased down the offensive rebound and a few seconds later, Lyons missed an open three. After taking nearly six minutes to put a point on the board last time out, the Paladins could've been rattled by the opening possession.

Instead, it was just the opposite. Richey clapped for his team as it made its way back down the court defensively and verbally praised their opening possession. While Lyons appreciated the encouragement, the senior didn't need it to know why his coach was happy.

"We missed two open threes, but I think everybody touched the ball. We were playing together off the tip and that kind of set the tone for how the game was going to go for us," Lyons said. "You start the game with all five guys touching it and getting two really good looks. Even though they didn't drop then, they more than likely will during the game which they did for us.
"In some of our losses this year, we've had slow starts. We knew that the first four minutes were going to be very important."

After missing those first two threes, the Paladins hit six of their next seven. Four of those belonged to Lyons, who made 6-of-12 threes for the game after going 0-for-8 from the floor last Friday. Jalen Slawson had the sixth three of that spurt to stake Furman to a 20-6 lead with 14:27 left in the first half.

All those looks for three came off the crisp ball movement that has been a staple of Furman basketball the past few years. A Mounce layup was the only unassisted field goal in the first half for the Paladins, who made 17-of-33 field goals (51.5 percent) to take a 49-30 lead into half. Six different Paladins had 3-pointers in the first half as they were 11-of-24 from beyond the arc.

"About a year ago at this time, they made the big run here late and hit the shot to beat us. Samford has talent and (Coach) Scott (Padgett) puts them in some good offensive structures that stretch our defense," Richey said. "To hold an offense like that to 30 points (in the first half), especially for us as we've struggled against them at times, that was critical.
"Were we perfect? No. But I could see we were getting hands on balls, we were more aware on the weak side and that our flow was better. ... We've been good defensively at times, but we haven't been elite consistently. I think we can continue to progress on that side of the floor."

It was more of the same for Furman's offense in the second half. The Paladins went on a 14-4 run early in the second half capped by Hunter's 3-pointer with 17:13 left that made it 63-36. Furman, which had assists on each of its first six buckets in the second half, led by as many as 31 and never led by fewer than 18 the rest of the way.

Lyons had a team-high 21 points to lead six Paladins in double figures. He also had three assists and no turnovers. Seven Paladins had at least three assists, led by Hunter's seven. Gurley had 19 points, while Mike Bothwell had 16 points and five assists. Slawson finished with a career-high 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three blocks and three steals. Hunter and Mounce each scored 11.

"The key for us (big men) is trying not to force anything down in the paint," said Gurley, who had three assists, two steals and one turnover. "Rather than taking a forced two, we'd rather kick out for three. When the ball gets passed around like it did tonight, everybody just feels the energy."

Samford standout point guard Josh Sharkey nearly had a triple-double with 24 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, but also had eight turnovers. Jalen Dupree had 23 points also for the Bulldogs (8-13, 2-5).

Furman next plays at Citadel at 1 p.m. Saturday.

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