Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Mounce helps Paladins roll over Samford

Clay Mounce had a season-high 25 points in Furman's 86-71
win at Samford Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Furman
Clay Mounce scored a season-high 25 points and Furman connected on 14-of-26 3-pointers as the Paladins rolled to an 86-71 win at Samford Wednesday night. It's the sixth consecutive win for Furman (21-5, 11-2), which remains tied atop the Southern Conference standings with ETSU.

So everything was fine and dandy Wednesday, right? Well ...

A crucial part of the level Furman's worked to reach during this historic run of terrific basketball the past few years is attention to detail - no matter the score or who's on the floor. A week after being outscored 9-3 over the final 3:15 of a blowout win against Mercer, the Paladins were outscored 12-2 over the final 3:58 Wednesday. In a postgame interview with the Furman Radio Network, Furman coach Bob Richey expressed the bad taste the final bite of the game left.

"We've got to grow there. This is too many games where we're trying to build depth ... and then leads just start to collapse. We play no defense and just fire up the first shot we see," Richey said. "If you're going to wear that jersey, there's a standard we're going to play at. It doesn't matter when your minutes are, you're going to play to a certain standard.
"It's frustrating because we've got seven guys who are absolutely laying it all down right now. They're doing whatever they can for this program. We need one more to just step up down this stretch run. ... One more guy that we know is ready to play the brand of Furman basketball that's required to wear that jersey on the court."

The fact that the Paladins led 84-59 with 3:59 left on Mounce's fifth 3-pointer is a testament to how well they played in the second half following a first half that was ugly at times. After falling behind 5-0, Furman went on a 13-0 run to take a lead it never relinquished. The Paladins led by as many as 13 before taking a 42-35 lead into the break.

The ugly parts of the opening half appeared to carry over in the first four minutes of the second half when the teams combined for seven turnovers. Five of those belonged to Samford though, and the last two led to a 3-pointer by Noah Gurley and a layup by Mike Bothwell to push the lead to 11.

With 14:40 left, Jalen Slawson committed Furman's 10th turnover but made up for it in a big way. After the Bulldogs' Jason Tatum stole the ball from him, Slawson raced down the court to block Tatum's shot. Alex Hunter gathered the rebound and fired a pass to Jordan Lyons, who drained a 3-pointer. That ignited a 10-2 run over the next two-and-a-half minutes as Furman took a commanding 62-43 lead. Samford never got within 15 the rest of the way and Furman had only three turnovers after that one with 14:40 left.

Furman shot 51.7 percent from the floor and had 23 assists out of 31 field goals. The Paladins held Samford to 37.9 percent shooting in the second half, including 0-of-4 from three. The Bulldogs (8-19, 2-11) had 20 turnovers and Furman enjoyed a 35-7 advantage in points off them. While Wednesday marked Samford's 11th consecutive loss, Furman joined Mercer as the only visitors to win there by more than eight points this season.

"In the first half, we were trying to do too much with the dribble. We didn't have the flow or tempo we like to have on offense," Richey said. "We did a better job of that in the second half.
"I think it was another 30-deflection night for us. We were at 28 without about four of five minutes to play. That would give us two 30-deflection games out of the last three after not having one all year. ... I'm proud of this group and how hard they're playing right now. ... I still feel like our best game's still ahead of us."

Mounce was one of five Paladins in double figures. Mike Bothwell had 15 points and four assists off the bench, while Lyons had 14 points, three assists and no turnovers. Gurley and Hunter had 12 points apiece and Hunter also had seven assists and two steals. Slawson finished with six points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks.

"Mounce was great tonight, but Tre Clark again ... it's like an X-factor. He's a different piece than what we have," Richey said. "He had two points and six rebounds tonight, so it's 'why is coach talking about him?' Well, if you go to the last column in plus and minus for what the score was when he was on the floor, he's at plus-21. That's second highest on our team behind Jordan, who was at plus-31 which is outstanding.
"You may not see it in the boxscore, but Tre's toughness and tenacity is translating."

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