Monday, December 21, 2020

Records rewritten in Furman rout of S.C. State

Furman reserve Colin Kenney had 16 points in the Paladins'
118-52 win over S.C. State Monday. Photo courtesy of Furman

What went around came around for the Furman basketball team Monday afternoon. After allowing 56 first-half points in Saturday's loss at Winthrop, the Paladins scored 56 in the opening half at Timmons Arena. Their second half went even better as Furman rolled to a record-breaking 118-52 win over South Carolina State.

It was the Paladins' highest scoring output against a Division I opponent since a 120-91 win over Saint Peter's in 1974, and the 13th-highest total ever. Furman (6-3) broke the single-game record for assists (33) as all 13 Paladins who suited up had at least one. Furman's 21-of-35 effort on 3-pointers was the most made against a Division I opponent and tied the overall school record. The Paladins also hit 21 against Virginia Intermont in 2004 and North Greenville in 2019.

At a time where Furman was already deep its bench, the Paladins made their final 13 field goals of the game to finish at 70 percent shooting (42-of-60). That just missed the single-game shooting percentage record of 71.4 set in a 49-48 overtime win at James Madison in 1984. For perspective, the Paladins were 20-of-28 in that game, but made 22-of-28 shots in the second half Monday.

The 66-point margin was Furman's second-highest against a Division I opponent. The Paladins defeated The Citadel 154-67 on Jan. 8, 1955.

"I'm proud of our team's energy and spirit today. Their connectivity on both ends of the floor was really good from the start," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "It was evident yesterday in practice that we were eager to get back on the court and show that we could play better. ... We played nine guys double-digit minutes tonight. They all created good energy, which gave us the lead and the margin to be able to do that.

"It hasn't been the easiest week, but we've improved through the adversity which is always good to see as a coach. ... We didn't pack any makes with us to Rock Hill, so I guess we had two games worth loaded up today."

Six different Paladins scored in double figures Monday. It's highly unlikely anyone would've predicted who got there first. Sophomore Colin Kenney, who logged a total of just 20 minutes this season entering Monday, drained three 3-pointers before hitting a jumper with five minutes left in the first half that pushed Furman's lead to 37-22.

"Coach has been experimenting with the depth and I saw my opportunity today to come in and make an impact," Kenney said. "Whether it's offense, defense or whatever, I just try to come in and do the best I can and provide energy. Credit to my teammates for helping me have a good day. ... It was awesome to see all of us go out there and play well.

"It was a great feeling to get back in the 'W' column before we head home for a little break. ... This gives us some good momentum to head into conference play right."

Kenney, whose previous career-high was six points in last season's win at Elon, finished with 16 points, three assists and no turnovers in 22 minutes. He led a total of six Paladins who posted new career-high scoring totals as the bench combined for 60 points. Also setting new high-scoring marks were Jonny Lawrence (15), Ben Beeker (9), Joe Anderson (6) and walk-ons Robert Swanson (7) and Rett Lister (3).

With top perimeter shooter Jaylon Pugh sidelined for 3-4 weeks with a broken finger, Kenney's reserve role could be expanding. However, Richey said Monday's opportunity didn't come about simply due to an injury.

"The door has been open for all of them. ... They always have the opportunity to show us how bad they want to go out there and be their best. That's what it comes down to. At the end of the day, I'm looking for guys who want to be their best," Richey said. "Colin really hasn't had a sign of hope (of playing) in some ways, but every single day he's been in the gym with his position coach in the film room.

"As a coach as you see that over time, you want to find ways to give them an opportunity. We gave him a few minutes at Rock Hill and he played really hard. We decided today to give him a shot early and he was ready to go. I couldn't be more proud of his energy and spirit, and of the work he's put in for weeks and weeks and weeks. He did all that to be ready for today. ... That's a great life lesson."

Lawrence, a 6-foot-10 freshman, led Furman's 3-point barrage by hitting 5-of-6.

"Jonny's a great shooter. He's got size and he's been getting stronger," Richey said. "It was a lot of fun to see him go out and play the way he did."

While no Paladin logged more than 22 minutes, the starters did their thing too. Noah Gurley led Furman with 19 points, while Clay Mounce had 14 - and no fouls. Mike Bothwell had 13 points and six assists, while Alex Hunter had 12 points.

Any victory would've helped Furman wipe the bad taste from its mouth following last week's heartbreaking loss at Alabama and getting thumped at Winthrop. The way Monday's game unfolded was an especially satisfying - and important - way to head into Christmas break.

After rolling over a winless S.C. State team to wrap up non-conference play, Furman opens the Southern Conference portion of its schedule at unbeaten Chattanooga on Dec. 30.

"Let's go have a break, because we need it. These guys haven't had a real day off since Charleston (Dec. 5), because they've been on buses all day on these road trips. It was a brutal stretch, but I think we've learned a lot and become closer," Richey said. "We have a really clear picture of who we are and where we've got to go. That's going to give us a really good four days of prep when we return on Dec. 26.

"When you get to conference play, the ante goes up a little bit and you can't size one up over another. Our league is great with quality all over it. It's going to be a challenge night in and night out, but it's one we're excited about it."

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