Saturday, December 12, 2020

Mounce hits milestone, leads Paladins to win

Clay Mounce scored 21 points, including the 1,000th of his Furman
career, as the Paladins defeated Flagler, 86-61, Saturday.

Furman's Clay Mounce reached a scoring milestone 11 seconds into Saturday's game and didn't stop scoring until halftime. The senior, who had 18 points in the second half Wednesday at Cincinnati, had 18 in the first half Saturday to help the Paladins roll over Flagler, 86-61.

After gaining control of the opening tip, Furman's Mike Bothwell fired to Mounce for a layup to open the scoring giving him 1,000 points in his career. Furman coach Bob Richey said that play was by design. Having Mounce's old friend and teammate Jordan Lyons in attendance Saturday made the moment all the more special.

"We ran that play to get Clay that bucket and get that out of the way. I was proud of Clay's performance. In the first half, he really carried over from what he did in the second half at Cincinnati," Richey said. "He played a complete game, had some great offensive rebounds and cuts.

"Jordan texted me yesterday and said he wanted to come see the game and be there for Clay's 1,000th point. It was great to see him and have him in the locker room after the game. It's always great to have family back."

Mounce finished with a game-high 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting and grabbed a game-high eight rebounds. Noah Gurley finished with 17 points, two blocks and two steals, while Alex Hunter had 10 points, six rebounds, five assists, three steals and no turnovers. Jaylon Pugh added a career-high 15 points in 14 minutes off the bench, as he drained 5-of-6 3-pointers.

"We were just trying to move the ball and it just happened to find my way. We run an equal opportunity offense and sometimes it finds you and it happened to be me in the first half," Mounce said. "Jaylon's in here every morning shooting and putting the work in. No one in this program is surprised by that game for him."

Mounce's big first half helped Furman take a 50-25 lead into the break. That lead helped the Paladins (5-1) overcome a second half that was sloppy at times, especially early on.

After five turnovers in the first half, Furman committed five in the first four minutes of the second half. That helped the Division II Saints go on an 8-3 run and pushed Richey to bench all five starters before the first media timeout.

"We just weren't playing defense to our standard there for a little stint," Mounce said. "That second group came in and gave us good minutes and Coach Richey got after us a little bit."

Order was somewhat restored once the starters checked back in five minutes later, but Flagler didn't go away. The Saints, who had a seven-point loss to Florida International and a 19-win over Central Michigan so far this season, cut the lead to 13 with 5:21 to play. Mounce answered with a 3-pointer 21 seconds later to start a game-ending 15-3 run.

"I'm proud of our guys, especially in the first half. We came out with a great defensive focus. ... We got to play a lot of our depth early, which was great," Richey said. "I wasn't real happy with the intensity of our defense coming out in the second half. ... We finished the game well. The last six minutes we got back to playing like we did in the first half."

After a disappointing loss at Cincinnati on Wednesday, Furman gets another shot to compete in a big-time arena Tuesday at Alabama at 9 p.m.

"Alabama's a really good team and (Coach) Nate (Oats) does a great job. It's an opportunity to play in an SEC venue on the SEC Network and see what we can do," Richey said. "The most critical thing is that we go try to be us ... bring an aggression to the game and not be timid. And understanding that the only way you have a chance to win is to go play defense at the highest level possible."

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