Thursday, November 15, 2018

Lyons Puts Furman Basketball in National Spotlight For The Second Time in a Week

Jordan Lyons Ties NCAA Record with 15 triples vs. North Greenville

Few sports offer the type of opportunities college basketball does, especially for a mid-major program like Furman.

“This team right here is special,” Jordan Lyons said. “The way that we believe in each other and the way everyone in this program believes in everyone’s abilities and the confidence that we hold here is something that is just so special.”

Earlier this season, Furman debuted its new video boards by honoring the first player in college basketball history at any level to score 100 points in a single game, which Frank Selvy accomplished on Feb. 13, 1954. Tonight, Selvy was on-hand to watch in delight as Lyons delivered a record-setting performance of his own to be highlighted by the beautiful new graphics at Timmons Arena.

A week ago, Furman woke up nine-point underdogs to 2018 Final Four participant Loyola Chicago. A week later, the Paladins are 4-0, with Sports Center top play on a game-winning dunk, an NCAA record-tying performance for three-pointers made in a single game, and had a player score the most points in an NCAA Division I college basketball game since 2009. All in a week’s work right?

Just 24 hours after Robert Morris’ Josh Williams tied the NCAA and SoCon records for most three-point field goals in a single game with 15, Furman’s Jordan Lyons made it back-to-back nights for maybe the best two scoring and long-range shooting performances by two individual players in such a short span of time in NCAA history, as he tied both Williams and former SoCon player and Marshall standout Keith Veney (Dec. 14, 1996 vs. Morehead State) with 15 three-pointers in a single game. That makes two players in SoCon history to hold the NCAA record for made three-pointers in a game.

Lyons finished with 54 points, connecting on 15-of-34 three-pointers and was 9-for-12 from the charity stripe, as he led Furman to a 107-67 win over NCAA Division II North Greenville on Thursday night at Timmons Arena.

Lyons’ performance is the most points in a NCAA Division I college basketball game since former Kentucky guard Jodie Meeks scored 54 points vs. Tennessee on Jan. 13, 2009. His 54 points also mark the most by a Southern Conference player in a game since March 4, 1988 when Marshall’s Skip Henderson scored a SoCon Tournament record 55 points in a 121-78 opening round win by the Thundering Herd over The Citadel. Furman now has seven of the top 10 scoring individual single-game scoring performances in SoCon history.

“What a surreal night,” said Lyons, who also set an NCAA record with 34 three-point attempts. “I’m so fortunate and so blessed to be here in this situation and I want to thank God for the talents that he’s blessed me with. It means a lot to be around teammates and coaches who believe in me and have confidence in my abilities.”

Lyons knocked down nine three-point field goals in the first half alone, which set a new Furman career record, as he surpassed David Brown (1988 vs Stanford), Sammie Liberatore (1994 vs. Marshall) and Eric Webb (2004 vs. Virginia Intermont), who each were tied for the all-time single-game school mark with eight.

Lyons acknowledged that what he accomplished tonight was more about how together and engaged this team has been with each other and playing for one another, citing the expectation and swagger as the watchwords for this team, and the type of mentality that helped them get one of the biggest road wins for Furman in recent memory.

That team mentality served him well individually tonight, but he was quick to also point out that no one player was more important than another. His teammates got him the ball in situations which enabled him to tie the record, and once again help Furman collectively tip the national radar early on in the 2018-19 season.

“We went up to Loyola with an expectation to win the game and we knew if we played hard and we played tough and we knew people in the country wouldn’t think were able to do it, but we knew we could do it and we went up there with a certain amount of swagger and we went up there with a certain amount of confidence and we had an expectation to go up there and win that game and we went up there and won that game and that’s something that’s very special.”

“And tonight, I know a lot of people are going to make this night about me, but how about my teammates and my coaches and just how excited they were and how into it they were and loving and caring they were throughout this whole night and that’s something special. I mean there was no envy. Everybody wanted it for me and to be in a place where people want me to succeed at that high of a level is something that can only imagine is just not the case everywhere.”

Earlier this summer, I interviewed Lyons about the upcoming season and what he would like to accomplish over his final two seasons at Furman. That interview and story seemed a little bit like foreshadowing for a night like tonight, and what unfolded at Timmons Arena. You can read more about it in the link pasted below.

For Furman, the 49 threes attempted were a school record and the 21 made three-pointers made tied a school mark. Lyons’ 54-point outburst was the highest scoring total since 62 points from Darrell Floyd in 1956, and the 54 points was the eighth-highest total in a single game in program history.

Furman, which is off to its first 4-0 start to a season since the 1987-88 season, braces for a trip to meet reigning national champion Villanova Saturday night in a game slated to tip-off at 5 p.m. EST and will be televised by FS2. The eighth-ranked Wildcats dropped a 73-46 decision to Michigan Wednesday night in a rematch of last year’s national title. The Paladins scored a 77-73 upset win in Greenville, S.C. over the Wildcats during that same 1987-88 season, which was the last 4-0 start for the program.

SoCon Basketball 2018-19: Power Rankings For Nov. 6-14

UNCG guard Isaiah Miller goes up for thunderous dunk at North Carolina A&T
 The following are the first power rankings of the 2018-19 season for SoCon hoops. We've seen upsets and near upsets in the first week of non-conference play, and we're starting to get an idea of who will be the contenders and the pretenders on the SoCon basketball hardwood this season.

1. UNCG (2-1)--UNCG did nothing to discourage its preseason ranking in the Southern Conference in the first three games, and may have improved it with its 82-61 road win at UNC Wilmington Tuesday night. The Spartans ability to pull away from the Seahawks was most impressive about that win.

The Spartans have played all three of their first three games away from Greensboro Coliseum to start the season, which also includes a hard-fought win at North Carolina A&T (W, 74-66). The Spartans posted a strong performance in the 97-91 loss to No. 23 LSU, connecting on 19 three-pointers in the loss.

Francis Alonso (20.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG) has, as expeccted, led the Spartans through the earliy portion of the season, while backcourt mate Isaiah Miller (13.0 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 3.0 SPG) has provided a few highlight-reel dunks through the early portion of the campaign. His nine steals lead the team and is tied for first in the SoCon.

 Perhaps the biggest surprise of the season thus far has been the play of junior forward Kyrin Galloway (17.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG). He is shooting a blistering 61.1% (11-for-18) from three-point range through the first three games of the season.

Wes Miller's club will return to the floor Friday night to open the home slate against Johnson and Wales, with tip-off set for 7 p.m. EST.

2. Furman (3-0)--Following wins over Bob Jones, 2018 Final Four participant  Loyola-Chicago, and surviving an overtime decision against winless Gardner-Webb, second-year head coach Bob Richey has his club playing better than some expected. What hasn't come as a surprise is the play of senior All-SoCon forward Matt Rafferty through the first thrree games of the season, as he has connected on 64.1% of his shots from the field, averaging 22.0 PPG. Rafferty's 22.0 PPG scoring average currently leads the Southern Conference, while his 64.1 FG% ranks third, and his 15 assists through three games are also tied for third in the SoCon.

Rafferty has scored a career-high 24 points in wins over both Gardner-Webb and Bob Jones, and added a double-double against the Bulldogs, as he pulled down 10 boards. In his return to his hometown, Rafferty didn't disappoint, as he posted 18 points and seven rebounds in Furman's win over the Ramblers. Redshirt sophomore forward Clay Mounce has also scored in double figures in all three of Furman's games so far this season, including a career-high 26 points last time out against Gardner-Webb and had the game-winning jam in the at Loyola-Chicago.

The Paladins will take the floor again on Thursday night to take on North Greenville with tip-off slated for 7 p.m. Furman will head to defending national champion Villanova for a 5 p.m. game Saturday evening. The Wildcats dropped a 73-46 decision to Michigan Wednesday night in a rematch of last year's national title. The Paladins scored a 77-73 upset win over the Wildcats in Greenville back on Dec. 23, 1987.

3. Wofford (2-1)--The Terriers started off the season with a hard-fought, 78-67, loss to then No. 8 North Carolina in a game, which saw the Terriers trying for a second-straight win over the Tar Heels in as many seasons.

While that night may have been an off-shooting night for preseason Southern Conference Player of the Year Fletcher Magee, the next time out, he didn't disappoint. Magee registered a game-high 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field and 5-for-8 from three-point land, as the Terriers went on the road and scored a good, 68-60, non-conference road win at High Point this past Saturday. Cameron Jackson was also impressive, as he added a double-double, with 13 points and 11 rebounds in the road win.

On Tuesday night, the Terriers scored an easy 94-35 win over Carver Bible College. Magee posted 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field, including 5-for-7 from three-point range, as he led three Terriers in double figures. Jackson just missed a double-double, with 11 points and nine rebounds.

Through the first three games this season, Magee ranks third in the SoCon, averaging 19.3 PPG, while he has 13 three-point field goals to rank second in the SoCon. For the season, Magee has conneced on 13-for-31 three-point field goals, which ranks him 13th in three-point field goal percentage through the first three games.

Jackson has gotten off to a strong start to his senior season, as the Winchester, VA, product is averaging 11.3 PPG through the first three games, and his 9.7 rebounds-per-game ranks third overall in the SoCon. He also ranks fifth in the SoCon in blocks-per-game (1.7 BPG) and is tied for sixth overall in the SoCon in field goal percentage (57.7%).

Wofford returns to action on Friday night, when it heads for Stanford in hopes of scoring another upset in the early part of the season for the Southern Conference. Wofford opened the 2014-15 season on the road at Maples Pavilion, dropping a 74-59 decision to the Cardinal. The Cardinal are 2-1 on the season, having dropped a 90-72 decision to North Carolina this past Monday night. Tip-off for Friday night's contest between the Terriers and Stanford is set for 10 p.m. EST.

4. East Tennessee State (1-2)--East Tennessee State has nearly a completely new cast of players, yet  the Bucs were in both games they lost with a chance to win both and be 3-0 instead of 1-2. The Bucs have dropped games on the road to Big East member Creighton (L, 69-75) and Sun Belt power Georgia State (L, 68-74) through the early portion of the non-conference slate. The lone win thus far has come against non-Division I foe Hiwassee (W, 109-44).

The Bucs are re-loaded, and appear to be a bit stronger and deeper as a team than they were even a year ago. Of no surprise, forward Jeromy Rodriguez (10.0 PPG, 12.7 RPG) has been as good as advertised through the early portion of the season. Rodriguez is a player that coach Steve Forbes called the most-skilled player he has ever coached, and having watched the Creighton game on Sunday, it was easy to see why with his rebounding ability on both ends, as well as his adept passing out of the post. Rodriguez currently leads the SoCon in rebounding, bringing down 12.7 rebounds-per-contest.

Tray Boyd III (11.7 PPG, 0.7 RPG) is as quick as any guard in mid-major basketball, and at points in the game against Creighton, he almost got going to fast. Boyd reminds me a little of former Tennessee guard Tony Harris only with a little better shot selection.

The Bucs return to the hardwood on Saturday afternoon, when they take a trip to Winthrop to take on Pat Kelsey's Eagles.The Bucs and Eagles will be meeting for just the third time and first time since the Bucs claimed a 69-64 road win over the Eagles back in the 2014-15 season. Tip-off Saturday is slated for 2:30 p.m.

5. Samford (4-0)--Samford is the first team to reach 4-0 in the SoCon and is one of two remaining unbeatens in the league, along with Furman.

Head coach Scott Padgett's club has pulled out wins over North Alabama (W, 91-74,), Jacksonville State (W, 92-72), Kennesaw State (74-60) and Miles College (66-57). No one really knew what to expect of head coach Scott Padgett's club with so many new faces on the roster.

One of the veterans still around is Josh Sharkey, and Sharkey, who is one of the quickest guards in the Southern Conference is up to his old tricks, garnering the SoCon's first Player of the Week accolade for the 2018-19 season. All Sharkey did last week was average 17.3 PPG and 9.0 APG in the opening three games of the season.

Seven-foot center Ruben Guerrero (17.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG) has been one of the newcomers that has surprised during the early portion of the 2017-18 season for the Bulldogs. Guerrero transferred to Samford from South Florida, and is a redshirt senior. He is shooting 62.2% from the floor through the first four games in 2018-19.

The Bulldogs return to the hardwood on Sunday, traveling to Cleveland State. Tip-off for that contest is set for 5 p.m. EST.

6. The Citadel (2-1)--The Bulldogs have gotten out of the gates to no one's surprise, and after showing us what they could against No. 22 Clemson to open the campaign, with a 100-80 loss in Tiger Town, the Bulldogs have scored a pair of lopsided wins over non-Division I programs Mid-Atlantic Christian (148-75) and Johnson (137-60).

The 148 points scored in the win over Mid-Atlantic Christian in the home opener at McAlister Field House were a school record.

One of the big surprises so far for Duggar Baucom's Bulldogs has been the play of Lew Stallworth (13.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG)--a transfer from Utah Rio Grande Valley--and he has been a solid replacement for Preston Parks in the backcourt and Frankie Johnson, who transferred out of the program during and following the 2017-18 season, respectively.

It shouldn't really come as a shock that sharp-shooting guard Matt Frierson (19.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG) and versatile center Zane Najdawi (13.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG) are the Bulldogs top scorers through the first three games. Frierson's 19 three-point field goals through the first three games of the season leads the SoCon.

The high-scoring Bulldogs, who are leading the nation by averaging 121.7 PPG through the first three games of the season, return to the floor Friday night in a game at Texas. Tip-off for Friday night's contest is set for 8 p.m.

7. Mercer (1-2)--Like Samford and Chattanooga, Mercer has had plenty of turnover during the off-season, albeit for a different reason, to their roster, as the Bears and head coach Bob Hoffman have virtually entire new team with the graduation of all five starters.

Perhaps the Bears' most impressive showing so far has been in a 62-60 road loss to Georgia State last time out on Tuesday night. The Bears have gotten strong play out of Serbian-born sharp-shooter Djordje Dimitrijevic (12.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG) and veteran returning guard Ethan Stair (12.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG) through the first three games of the season. Dimitrijevic has been coming off the bench, while Stair has started all three games for Bob Hoffman's Bears.

The Bears will obviously looking to get the same production from Ross Cummings (8.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG) as the season progresses. Cummings is another outstanding shooter, and was the player that really started to emerge as a go-to-scorer when Ria'n Holland got hurt down the stretch last season.

The Bears picked up their lone win of the season against Piedmont College (105-52) in the home opener, while losses have come against UAB (L, 67-75) and Georgia State (60-62). The Bears return to the hardwood Friday night, hosting UT-Martin with tip-off set for 7 p.m. at Hawkins Arena.

8. VMI (3-1)--VMI looks like it will be able to hold its own against most in the Southern Conference in Dan Earl's fourth season at the helm. The Keydets went out and scored their first Division I win of the season Wednesday night, knocking off Big South member USC Upstate (78-72).

The Keydets were paced in the win by 6-8 freshman center Jake Stephens, who came off the bench to post 20 points, going 6-for-7 from the field, including a perfect 4-for-4 from three-point range in the win. It was a good, hard-fought win for a young basketball team that will look to gain experience going forward.

Sophomore guard and reigning SoCon Freshman of the Year Bubba Parham (18.0 PPG, 2.5 RPG) is one of the best pure scorers and shooters in the SoCon. He is off to another fast start for the Keydets, and currently ranks fifth in the SoCon in scoring. The Keydets also have wins over Goucher (W, 98-34) and Washington College (W, 89-56), while the lone loss has come against Pittsburgh (L, 55-94) on the road last Saturday. VMI returns to the hardwood on Sunday, facing Kentucky. Tip-off for that contest is slated for 6 p.m. EST.

9. Chattanooga (2-1)--Chattanooga coach Lamont Paris has seen some flashes of how good this Mocs team can be in moments through the first three games.

With a new cast of characters, the Mocs opened the season with an impressive 80-69 win over Charlotte at Halton Arena, paced by 18 points from Fairfield transfer guard Jerry Johnson Jr. That win looked even more impressive after Charlotte went on the road to defeat Oklahoma State on a three at the buzzer a few days later.

The disappointment for Paris might be in the 81-78 to Ohio Valley Conference member Eastern Kentucky (L, 78-81) in the home opener at the Roundhouse, which saw Colonel forward Nick Mayo go for 40 points and 12 boards in the helping EKU garner the non-conference road win. Then came a 92-61 win over Cumberland, which sees the Mocs sit 2-1 as they head to the Goldie and Herman Ungar Classic in Mobile, AL, where the Mocs will play three games in three days beginning with a Friday showdown against South Alabama in a tip-off set for 8:05 p.m.

UAB transfer Thomas Smallwood (14.7 PPG, 10.7 RPG) and outstanding freshman guard Kevin Easley (17.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG) have been among the most impressive players in the early portion of the season for the Mocs.

10. Western Carolina (0-3)--The Mark Prosser-era has gotten off to a tough start, as the Catamounts have dropped their first three games to open the season against SMU (L, 65-98), College of Charleston (L, 74-77) and Wright State (L, 73-96).

The Catamounts are coming off a loss to the SMU Mustangs on Wednesday night. The losses to College of Charleston and Wright State were against teams that made the NCAA Tournament last season. The Catamounts strong in their home opener against College of Charleston, only to drop a heartbreaker.

A couple of newcomers have shined early on this season for Prosser's club, with both freshman guard Kameron Gibson (17.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG) and JUCO transfer forward Carlos Dotson (13.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG) having gotten off to strong starts to the 2018-19 season. The Catamounts return to action on Saturday, hosting non-Division I Hiwassee College.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Furman Garners 40th Win at Timmons Arena Since The Start of 2015-16 Season in Dramatic Fashion

GREENVILLE, S.C.--Furman got a career-high nights from forwards Matt Rafferty and Clay Mounce, as the Paladins held off Gardner-Webb for their 40th win at Timmons Arena since the start of the 2015-16 seassn, posting an 88-86 overtime win over the Bulldogs Tuesday night inside the friendly confines.
Furman senior forward Matt Rafferty

With the win, Furman remained perfect on the young season, improving to 3-0 overall. The loss saw Gardner-Webb fall to 0-3.

Clay Mounce led all scorers with 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the field, including 3-for-5 from three-point range, and finished 1-for-3 from the charity stripe to finish off his career-high scoring night. Additionally, the redshirt sophomore from Elkin, N.C., added six boards, two assists, two blocks and a steal in 37 minutes of floor action.

Rafferty, a senior from Hinsdale, Ill, was sensational for the third time out this season, including matching a career-high established in the season opener with 24 points, and posted his first double-double of the season with 10 rebounds. Rafferty also connected on 9-of-12 shots from the field and was 6-for-8 from the charity stripe. In addition to his 10 rebounds, Rafferty added six assists and a steal.

Rounding out the Paladins in double figures in the contest was redshirt freshman Noah Gurley, who has now put together solid back-to-back games coming off his performace against Loyola Chicago Friday night, which saw him finish with 11 points, six boards in the 60-58 win over the Ramblers. In the 88-86 overtime win over the Bulldogs, Gurley added 12 points, six rebounds and a pair of steals. Gurley connected on 5-of-10 shots from the field, including going 2-for-6 from three-point range.

Furman found themselves in a dog fight down the stretch in the contest, and after holding a 13-point lead at halftime, leading by as many as 14 points in the opening frame with just under a minute left, however, Gardner-Webb would storm back in the second half and would take the lead in overtime, 80-78, following a Furman turnover and a David Efianayi layup.

Furman had a chance to assume to lead on its next possession after Tre Clark was fouled after converting a jumper in the lane with 4:24 remaining in the extra session, however, he missed the shot leaving the contest tied, 80-80.

Gardner-Webb looked like it might join UNC Greensboro as the only team to garner multiple wins on the Timmons Arena hardwood since the start of the 2015-16 season after Nate Johnson canned a three-pointer with 3:57 remaining in overtime to help the Bulldogs match their largest lead of the night, as the visitors took a 83-80.

Gardner-Webb even had a chance to to increase its lead to two possessions, following two empty possessions for the Paladins, however, the Paladins came up with a pair of strong defensive stands, forcing a missed layup by Nate Johnson and a missed triple attempt by Jose Perez on two heavily contested shot attempts.

Junior guard Jordan Lyons had struggled to find any open shots for much of the night, due in large part to being defended well by the Bulldogs, however, much like he did in Friday night’s win at Loyola Chicago, Lyons stepped up when the Paladins needed it the most, canning a three from the top of the key, tying the game, 83-83, with 2:07 left.

On Gardner-Webb’s next possession, Lyons picked the pocket of guard Eric Jamison, Jr., and drove in off the left side, laying off the glass to give Furman an 85-83 lead with 1:43 to play, forcing a Gardner-Webb timeout. The Paladins would come up with another defensive stop following a missed contested layup by Perez with 1:23 to play.

Mounce followed on the next possession by missing a jumper with just under a minute left, however, Rafferty corralled the offensive rebound, allowing the Paladins to run some precious clock. The ball eventually found its way back to Lyons at the top of the key, but his three-point attempt from straight-a-way caromed high in the air of the miss, but Mounce made perhaps his biggest high-wire play of the night, as he tipped the ball in with 23 seconds remaining, giving Furman an 87-83 lead.

“Jordan had a tough night offensively, but a lot of that was due to Gardner-Webb’s game plan,” Furman coach Bob Richey said. “But he hit the big shot and that’s what I love about him. “

The Bulldogs, however, wouldn’t go away easily, as Efianayi’s fall-a-way triple from the right elbow trimmed Furman’s lead to a point with 16 seconds left. Following the inbounds pass, Lyons was immediately fouled with 13 seconds left. Lyons missed the first, but made the second, giving the Paladins an 88-86 lead.

The Bulldogs turned it over on the following crucial possession, and Mounce was fouled with 3.7 seconds left. He missed both free throws, giving the Bulldogs one last attempt at the win, however, Jamison’s half-court heave was off the mark and the Paladins were able to escape with the win.

The opening half of play saw the Paladins play some of their basketball of the young season, racing to the half with a 46-33 haltime lead on the strength of shooting the basketball at a 64.5% (20-for-31) from the field, which included 17 first-half points from Rafferty on a perfect 8-for-8 shooting from the field, and 1-of-1 from the charity stripe.

For the game, Furman held advantages in points in the paint (50-46), fast-break points (7-6), and assists (21-12), while Gardner-Webb claimed advantages in points off turnovers (15-10), second-chance points (13-7), rebounds (35-34) and bench points (23-10).

The Paladins finished the night shooting the ball at a 53.0% (35-of-66) clip from the field, while connecting on 34.8% (8-for-23) from three-point range, and 58.8% (10-of-17) from the free throw line.

The Bulldogs connected on 50.0% (32-of-64) from the field for the game, and 40.9% from three-point range (9-for-22). The Bulldogs shot 65.0% from the free throw line, connecting on 13-for-20 in the game.

Six Bulldogs found their way into double figures in the contest, led by 23 points from freshman wing Jose Perez, who connected on 8-of-17 shots from the field, but was just 1-for-7 from three-point range. Senior All-Big South guard David Efianayi finished with 16 points, while senior forward DJ Laster chipped in with 15 points.   Eric Jamison Jr. led the Bulldogs on the backboards with eight boards to go with his 10 points. 

“Offensively, we did a pretty good job for the most part. We shot 53 percent from the floor, had 21 assists and 11 turnovers. These guys (Gardner-Webb) had turned VCU and Virginia Tech over on average of 20 a night,” Richey said.

“What we’ve got to learn from is that we’ve got guard the bounce better. They basically went five guards, putting their head down and driving (in the second half). It wasn’t anything complicated. Second, we’ve got to understand that a 13-point lead at halftime doesn’t mean you just go out there and walk through the next 20 minutes and everything’s going to work out,” he added.

The 40th win for the Paladins since the start of the 2015-16 season is a significant achievement, and has made Furman one of the toughest venues to play in mid-major college hoops. The victory saw the Paladins improve to 40-8 in the facility over the past three-plus seasons.

“It means a lot. We have great fans and you know we love it when the students come out, especially those people on the front row...the football team and we always really appreciate that and it gives us a lot of energy and we love playing here,” Clay Mounce said.

“Our fans are great, boosters, students, proffessors, and anyone that comes out and supports us, we’re happy to have them and its great to see new faces and familiar ones,” Matt Rafferty added.

All of those different pieces of the program have been building blocks for the Paladin basketball program over the past four years, as the program continues to undergo transformation and reach new heights, both in the Southern Conference, as well as nationally throughout mid-major basketball.

“We’ve been fortunate at home the past few years and we’ve shot it really well, we’ve defended, we’ve played with pretty good energy here, and you know this is home right and if we continue to find ways to build the environment and the atmosphere and really get some energy in there,” Richey said.

” I thought tonight we finally got some energy and you know what its not their fault, we weren’t guarding a lick and I understand it, but basically it was never a deal where we had the lead or we were down a possession and it was never a deal where we had this huge deficit to overcome. I hope we can get to a point in those moments where you just feel that energy and you know we’ll get there with the video boards and I thought the students showed up better than what we usually see around here in November for a weekday and I thought the student section was pretty good. We will keep trying to make it as good as we can make it,” Richey added.

It was not only Furman’s 40th home win since the start of the 2015-16 season, but it marked the first overtime win by the Paladins since Jan. 24, 2011, when the Paladins knocked off eventual regular-season and tournament champion Wofford, 73-68, at Benjamin Johnson Arena.

Furman will be back on the Timmons Arena hardwood on Thursday night to face Richey’s alma mater, North Greenville. Tip-off for that contest is set for 7 p.m.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Furman’s Mounce Rattles Rim and Ramblers En Route to Upset of Loyola Chicago

Furman is no stranger to ending road losing streaks.

Two years ago following a season-opening, 73-71, loss at Presbyterian, who went on to win only five more games the entire season, it didn’t seem that Furman was on the cusp of a big non-conference win that would be evidence of the progress the program had made in such a short time. It certainly wasn’t the kind of start to a season that then head coach Niko Medved and top assistant and now head coach Bob Richey would have hoped for.

Add to that the next time the Paladins were to take the floor three nights later was in Birmingham to face a UAB team that was coming off a Conference USA title and entered the contest sporting a 26-game homecourt winning streak.

The task ahead for the Paladins, who came into the season with such high expectations, seemed daunting considering a season-opening loss to a team picked to finish near the bottom of the Big South. Follow that up by then facing a Blazers club that returned four starters from a team that had won 26 games the previous season, the possibility of starting 0-2 seemed to almost be foregone conclusion.

After all, the Blazers had won their season opener by 20 over Arkansas Pine-Bluff a couple nights early and looked impressive in doing so.

However, after practicing a couple with days without a basketball, Furman knew it didn’t give its all in the season-opening loss to Clinton, S.C., and came out with a point to prove against UAB two years ago.

Now a redshirt sophomore, Clay Mounce was in his true freshman campaign back in 2016-17, which was a season he ultimately red-shirted. Senior All-SoCon Matt Rafferty sat out the beginning of that 2016-17 season after off-season back surgery.

Those two would play a knock-down, drag-out game of one-on-one a couple of hours prior to the tip-off that night particular at Bartow Arena. Those two would witness a statement for the Paladins that night, as Furman downed the Blazers, 84-74, for their first significant win of what would turn out to be a regular-season title season for the Paladins and the first of back-to-back school-record tying 23-win seasons for the Paladins.

Rafferty and Mounce would watch from the sidelines, as the Paladins pulled off the win. Now junior guards Jordan Lyons and Andrew Brown, and former player turned current assistant coach Daniel Fowler played key roles in that win a couple of years ago. Fowler scored a career-high 23 points, while Brown and Lyons hit key three-pointers down the stretch as part of an 11-0 run to help the Paladins seal what at that time was a monumental stepping stone for the Paladin basketball program.

Two years later, those four would be present in yet another huge step for the ever-changing culture of Furman basketball, although in different capacities, as Furman knocked off 2018 Final Four participant Loyola Chicago, 60-58, at Gentile Arena Friday night ending an eight-game winning streak for the Ramblers overall, and a streak of 16-straight wins against non-conference foes on the home hardwood.

Remember what I said about those five aforementioned players. Fowler is now the director of recruiting and an assitant on staff for Furman basketball, while Mounce, Brown, Lyons and Brown were all present for one of the biggest wins in recent memory for Furman basketball as players on the court Friday night. And oh yeah Bob Richey, he’s now the head coach and he’s seen this turnaround from the worst of times of Furman basketball until some of the best of times. That’s right Richey was on staff when the Paladins won seven--count em on two hands seven--wins in a single-season in 2012-13. He would be the only coach retained by Medved upon his hiring.

How It Happened:

Richey is now the head man on staff of a team that has won 48 games since the start of that 2016-17 season, and 78 since the start of the 2014-15 season. Times are changing. Culture is changing every day for Furman basketball, much the same way it did for Porter Moser’s Loyola Chicago club over a short period of time under the young, energetic head coach.

It must seem as no coincidence that Rafferty, Mounce, Lyons and Brown all had roles to play Friday night, almost as if the 2016 win over UAB was a foreshadowing of how the events would unfold in the second game of the 2018-19 season. With time winding down, after all, it was Mounce who took the feed from Rafferty and flushed a one-handed tomahawk dunk off the left side with 1.6 seconds remaining to seal a special win for the Furman basketball program, and for the Southern Conference.

The past two seasons has seen the SoCon seal wins over a defending national champion (Wofford def. North Carolina 79-75 on Dec. 21, 2017) and now a Final Four participant from the preceding season (Furman def. Loyola Chicago 60-58 on Nov. 9, 2018).

It was also a homecoming for Rafferty. He hails from Hinsdale, Ill, which is a place he still remembered as being a star quarterback and basketball player. It was Rafferty’s pin-point feed--one of his four helpers on the night--that helped lead Mounce perfectly into his path for the one-handed game-winning stuff, which also landed on Sportcenter as the “Top Finish of the Night.”

Rafferty completed the night connecting on 7-of-16 shots from the field and was 4-for-5 from the line, accounting for his team-leading 18 points. Additionally, Rafferty added seven boards, two blocks and two steals to go with his point and assist totals.

Also adding double-figure scoring performances were Lyons (15 pts, 1 reb, 1 ast, 3 stls) and redshirt freshman Noah Gurley (11 pts, 6 rebs, 1 ast), while Brown and Mounce posted finished just out of double figures, providing key plays down the stretch. The super-athletic Mounce also added three blocks and seven boards, while Brown had a pair of steals, an assist and a rebound.

The trio of Mounce, Rafferty and Lyons scored the final 15 points of the game for the Paladins to turn a 15 points of the game to turn a 49-45 deficit with 5:07 remaining into a 60-58 win.

The Paladins trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half (42-29) after leading by as many as 15 (23-8) in the opening half of play. Furman jumped out with good early defense, which turned Rambler turnovers into points, and were aided by poor shooting and a pair of three-pointers from Lyons and Brown in opening 13 minutes of the game to produce a somewhat scoreline to the casual on-looker.

However, Furman would learn quickly why Moser’s club was able to make such a deep run in the college basketball postseason last March, and it started with Naismith Award candidate Clayton Custer, who scored 16 of his game-high 19 points in the opening half of play.

From the 7:08 minute mark of the opening half to the 13:08 mark of the second, the Ramblers rattled off a 34-6 run to take a 42-29 lead. Some might have thought Richey’s Paladins would fold, however, Furman would in fact pick up the pace over the final 13 minutes, stepping up the intensity on the defensive end of the floor, as well as hitting timely shots.

But down the stretch, it was Rafferty, who was playing in front of many family and friends, that will steal the night and facilitate the win for the Paladins. He scored seven points, added a pair of boards and the all-important assist over the final 4:31 of the game to help the Paladins escape with the memorable win.

Custer finished the night connecting on 8-of-14 shots from the field, including 2-for-6 from three-point range and was 1-of-2 from the line. He also added two boards, one assist and a pair steals. Custer was joined in double figures by Lucas Williamson, who added a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards. He also posted two steals, two blocks and an assist.

Senior guard Marques Townes closed out the Ramblers in double figures with 10 points, while senior post Cameron Krutwig just missed double figures with nine points and added seven boards.

Furman ended the night holding advantages in three-point field goal percentage (27.3% -15.0%), over field goal percentage (38.2%-37.0%), free throw percentage (70.6%-60.0%), second-chance points (8-6) and bench points (11-3). The Ramblers held slight advantages in rebounds (37-36), assists (10-9), fast-break points (13-8), and points in the paint (28-26).

After turning the ball over just three times in the season opener against Bob Jones, the Paladins committed 17 miscues this evening. The Ramblers turned it over only 14 times. Furman returns to Timmons Arena Tuesday night when it hosts Gardner-Webb, with tip-off set for 7 p.m.

Furman continues to come of age as a program, and even though 42 points of production were lost to graduation, Mounce’s emphatic finish to help capture the road win showed Richey and staff continue to cultivate a winning culture in Greenville.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Furman Heads to 2018 Final Four Participant Loyola-Chicago Friday Night

Matt Rafferty set to return to home as Furman takes on Loyola-Chicago Friday night

The Game:
Furman (1-0) at Loyola-Chicago (1-0)

Coaches: Furman—Bob Richey (24-10/2nd Yr at Furman); Loyola-Chicago—Porter Moser (122-111/8th Yr at Loyola)

Series: Furman and Loyola-Chicago will be meeting for the third-time, with the series tied 1-1.

Venue and Time: Gentile Arena/8 p.m. EST

How To Watch: NBCSN Chicago/ESPN3

Brief Synopsis of Last Meeting: Loyola Chicago 77, Furman 50 (Dec. 1, 2012)
Behind 19 points from Devin Turk, the Ramblers avenged a loss in Greenville a year earlier, with a 77-50 win over the Paladins at Gentile Arena; The Ramblers are 2-2 all-time against members of the Southern Conference, knocking off Samford, 88-67, at Gentile Arena last season.

Brief Preview:Friday night’s matchup is between a pair of teams that have won 50 and 46 games, respectively, the past two years. The Ramblers followed up an 18-14 record in 2016-17 with 32 wins and a Final Four last season, while Furman is coming off back-to-back 23-win seasons, which included a regular-season Southern Conference title in 2016-17.

Furman travels to Loyola-Chicago to meet what will be one of several tests during the non-conference schedule, and it will be the first of two Final Four participants from last season that the Paladins will face during the non-conference slate. The Paladins will take on reigning national champion Villanova on Nov. 19.
The Paladins will offer the Ramblers more of a test than UMKC did in the opener, and for Furman, it will be a huge step-up in class than what the Paladins got from non-Division I Bob Jones in the opener.

Both the Paladins and Ramblers got huge wins, only Loyola’s victory came over another Division I foe, as it downed the Kangaroos 76-45, while the Paladins downed the Bruins 102-48. Loyola enters the contest having won eight-straight games at Gentile Arena, and won a school-record 14 games on its home court last season.

The Ramblers are again one of the top teams in mid-major basketball, with an inside-outside game that could rival anyone in college basketball. In the backcourt, the Ramblers rely on the veteran leadership of senior point guard Clayton Custer (9 pts, 3 asts, 3 stls vs. UMKC), who was a big reason the Ramblers were able to make the run to the Final Four last year. Custer was the first-ever Ramblers to claim the Larry Bird Award last season, which is given to the top player in the Missouri Valley Conference each season.

Custer sets to tone on both ends of the floor for the Ramblers. as the redshirt senior averaged 13.2 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 4.1 APG and 1.5 SPG last season, starting all 33 games en route to leading Loyola to its first Final Four appearance since 1963. He connected on a blistering 45.1% from three-point range this season (60-for-133), while draining 52.8% (160-of-303) of his shots from the field last season. He will be one of the most intelligent, poised and well-rounded guards the Paladins will face this season.

Custer will team with senior wing guard Marques Townes (13 pts, 4 asts, 3 rebs vs. UMKC) and talented sophomore guard Lucas Williamson (5 pts, 9 rebs, 3 asts, 2 stls, 1 blk vs UMKC). Williamson is coming off a season which saw him honored as a part of the MVC All-Freshman Team and All-MVC bench team. The trio of guards will present one of Furman’s biggest challenges of the non-conference slate, due in large part to the experience of both Townes and Custer.

Freshman guard Cooper Kaifes, had quite the college debut, leading three Ramblers in double figures off the bench in the season opener vs. UMKC, with 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field, including going 5-for-7 from three-point range. He also added a pair of boards to his overall stat line.

The low-post tandem of 6-9 center Cameron Krutwig (10 rebs, 6 rebs, 1 ast) and 6-7 forward Aher Uguak (8 pts, 5 rebs, 2 asts). Krutwig is another savvy player, who uses his body well, knows how to draw fouls and get to the line as well as being a very skilled passer, and possesses a variety of different low post moves.

Furman counters with three new starters, but still have three players that have been part of the 46 wins the previous two seasons, with senior guard Andrew Brown (6 pts, 3 rebs vs. Bob Jones) and junior guard Jordan Lyons (career-high 23 points vs. Bob Jones) both back in the mix, while senior forward Matt Rafferty (career-high 24 pts vs. Bob Jones) was a preseason First-Team All-SoCon selection. For Rafferty, who hails from the suburbs of Chicago, it will be a homecoming.

In addition to his career-high 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the field, Rafferty added eight boards, five assists, a block and a steal. It was just the kind of start to the season you’d expect for a player of his caliber, and one now expected to carry much of the scoring load for the Paladins this season.

The Paladins will need a big seaso for this trio after having lost 42 points to graduation, including the team’s top defender, in Daniel Fowler, and 2017 SoCon Player of the Year and last season’s leading scorer, Devin Sibley, to graduation. The Paladins lost most in the backcourt, with Sibley, Fowler and John Davis III as starters from the backcourt. Lyons started the final eight games last season for the Paladins, so he comes into the season with some experience.

Lyons, a prolific scorer and three-point shooter, opened the season with a career-high 23 points, with 21 of those points on seven triples. He was part of a backcourt, which included starters Alex Hunter (7 pts, 3 assists, 2 rebs, 1 steal vs. Bob Jones) and Brown, who committed a school-record low three turnovers in the first game of the season as a collective backcourt in somewhat of a new era for Furman basketball.

One of the top newcomers for the Paladins in the backcourt and a player worth keeping an eye on this season in the Furman backcourt is Mike Bothwell (11 pts, 1 ast, 2 stls vs Bob Jones). He has shown tremendous and an unflappable demeanor uncanny for a freshman guard in the season opener as well as the two scrimmages prior to the season opener.

“You know as we always talk about we always want good people in our program and when we started recruiting Mike that was the first thing you heard about him and what an unbelievable individual he is and what we started noticing about him once we started to getting to know him is how magnetic his personality was and just how poised he is and he reminded us a lot of Daniel Fowler when we recruited Daniel and he kind of plays with that same type presence and things don’t seem to phase him and he doesn’t really get bothered and he’s a joy to be around,” said Furman head coach Bob Richey.

Can the Paladins keep this game close? The simple answer is yes. The Paladins have depth and defend well enough to stick around awhile.

“We will be dealing with a team that’s very well-coached and very unselfish. They’ve got an elite point guard, an elite (No.) five man and really good pieces around them,” Furman head coach Bob Richey said.

“They didn’t just accidentally fall into the Final Four. It’s going to be tough, but this group’s up for the challenge.”

Who Wins:
Loyola-Chicago’s experience and talent will be the ultimate difference in this contest, but expect the Paladins to at least make things interesting for far later into the game than most of the experts think.

Loyola-Chicago 77, Furman 68

SoCon Roundup: Opening Night Thoughts, Recaps and Team of the Night

Wofford Dropped a 78-67 contest to No.8 in the 2018-19 season opener

Southern Conference basketball is officially underway, with all 10 teams in the league having played at least one game. It was an interesting opening couple of nights to open the 2018-19 season in SoCon basketball.

Most had their eyes trained towards on the game in Spartanburg, with one of the league favorites--Wofford--hosting No. 8 North Carolina at the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium. Much of the interest from the college basketball world hinged on the fact that Wofford upset North Carolina, 79-75, in Chapel Hill last season. Could the Terriers do the unthinkable twice in as many seasons?

In one word--no. However, there were moments in the 78-67 Terrier loss that offered us glimspes as to why the Terriers were so highly thought of in the preseason. Senior guard and preseason Southern Conference Player of the Year Fletcher Magee led four Terriers in double figures with 21 points, however, it proved to be a tough night overall for the senior from Orlando.

Magee finished the night connecting on just 7-of-23 shots from the field, including just 3-for-16 from three-point land in the lost. You have to figure things will start to get better for the senior sharp-shooter, as the Terriers travel to High Point to battle the Panthers in a 2 p.m. contest. High Point dropped its season opener with a 79-69 setback at William & Mary.

While Magee struggled to find his shot, that was not the case for sophomore point guard Storm Murphy. A SoCon All-Freshman team performer last season, Murphy finished the night against the Tar Heels connecting on 5-of-8 shots from the field, including going 3-for-6 from three-point range, as he finished the night with 15 points and dished out six assists.

Cameron Jackson, who is another preseason First-Team All-SoCon honoree, was solid in the post to start the 2018-19 season, as he finished his senior season lid-lifter with 10 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the field, and just missed a double-double with nine rebounds. Junior guard Nathan Hoover rounded out the double-figure scorers for the Terriers, with 12 points. Wofford struggled shooting the basketball as a team for much of the night, especially from beyond-the-arc, going just 9-for-35, and shot just 38.1% (24-for-63) from the field for the night.

North Carolina had a lot to do with Wofford's struggles in the season opener, and the Tar Heels got 24 points from All-America post Luke Maye, while fellow frontcourt mate Garrison Brooks added 20. The Tar Heels shot 49.2% (29-for-59) for the game.

What Did We Learn About Wofford: 

What I can say is that we learned Mike Young has a pretty solid squad, and despite their shooting struggles, found themselves right there in the game for a large portion of the season-opener against one of college basketball's blue bloods. It won't get any easier for the Terriers in the non-conference later on down the road, as the Terriers still have games against pretty solid clubs from both No. 3 Kansas and No. Mississippi State on down the road.

UNCG ends North Carolina A&T's 13-game winning streak on its home floor

UNC Greensboro found itself in a hard-fought game to open the 2018-19 season, as the Spartans battled North Carolina A&T in a Gate City battle, escaping with a 74-66 win to end the Aggies 13-game homecourt winning streak.

The Spartans, who are the preseason favorites to defend their Southern Conference regular-season and tournament titles from a year ago, found themselves trailing, 39-38, at the half. That's when the Spartans would find that defensive edge that made them so successful a year ago on the SoCon hardwood.

After seeing the Aggies shoot 50% (14-for-28) in the opening half of play, UNCG put the clamps down on the Aggies in the second, limiting the Aggies to just 35.7% (10-of-28) in the second frame. The Aggies ability to hit the perimeter shot with such effectiveness in the opening half (6-for-11) in the opening half was a little concerning from a UNCG standpoint, but open looks in the second half from long-range were hard to come by for North Carolina A&T were hard to come by, and the Spartans limited the MEAC members to just 3-for-7 from long-range in the second stanza.

UNCG got a big night from its backcourt to open the 2018-19 season, with senior First-Team All-SoCon guard Francis Alonso combining with 2017-18 SoCon All-Freshman team honoree Isaiah Miller to score 39 of the Spartans' 74 points in the win. Alonso, who is the pride of the Andalucia region of Spain's beautiful city Malaga, finishing with 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting from long range and 2-for-7 from three-point lange. Additionally, Alonso added six boards, two assists and a steal.

Miller, meanwhile, added 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field, while building off an outstading freshman season as a defender, posting a team-high four steals in the win. SoCon preseason Defensive Player of the Year James Dickey led the Spartans on the backboards, with seven points, seven blocks and a team-best 10 boards.Newcomer Kaleb Hunter rounded out the Spartans in double figures with 11 points. UNCG senior guard Demetrius Troy was a pace-setter for the offense, and while he struggled to find his shot in the opener, he finished with a team-leading four assists.

UNCG has another big contest coming up on the road, when the Spartans travel to face the LSU Tigers at the Pete Maravich Center Friday night, with tip-off set for 7 p.m.

What Did We Learn About UNCG:

We learned that while there was no Jordy Kuiper or Marvin Smith Jr. to look to for veteran leadership in key moments, the Spartans got what they needed out of veteran stars like Alonso, Miller, Troy and Dickey when those adverse moments presented themselves against a solid MEAC opponent on the road in a hostile environment in the season opener. We also learned that this team might have a little more scoring punch and shot selection this season. With the emergence of players like Kaleb Hunter, Eric Hamilton and Kyrin Galloway this season. The Spartans are also a tad bit deeper than the team that claimed the 2017-18 SoCon regular-season and tournament titles.

Bo Hodges and the Bucs fall at Sun Belt Power Georgia State in the season opener

Much like the 2017-18 season opener at Northern Kentucky to open the season, East Tennessee State's basketball season got off to a cold start, with a 74-68 loss on the road at perennial Sun Belt power Georgia State.

Although it was far from the margin of defeat as the 2017-18 season-opening loss in Highland Heights, KY, as the Bucs fell 81-63 to the Norse to suffer their biggest non-conference loss of the 2017-18 season, the shooting from last season's season opener in comparison to the 2018-19 season opener was similar. The Bucs opened the season against NKU last season connecting on just 36.7% (22-for-60) from the field and just 11.1% (2-for-18) from three-point range.

In the 2018-19 season opener against a Georgia State team many have tabbed to take the Sun Belt title this season and make its third NCAA Tournament appearance in five seasons, the Bucs were just 35.1% (26-of-74) and just 17.4% (4-for-23) from three-point range against the Panthers. Credit Ron Hunter's club for that, but also don't signal the alarm bells for Steve Forbes' club after the 2018-19 season opener on the road against a team that will very likely find themselves in some postseason tournament, if not the NCAA Tournament.

There positives, however, as the Bucs held a 43-39 edge on the backboards. The Bucs also played well on the defensive end of the floor, limiting a high-octane Georgia State offense, which featured four returning starters and the preseason Sun Belt Player of the Year, to just 38.6% (22-for-57) shooting for the game and 37.5% (9-for-24) from three-point range. The Bucs also held a significant 42-24 advantage on the offensive glass.

The Bucs got a solid debut from JUCO transfer guard Isaiah Tisdale, who posted 19 points, five boards and dished out four helpers, and was one of three Bucs in double-figures in the season opener. Tisdale was joined in double figures by sophomore guard Bo Hodges, who posted 11 points, six rebounds and dished out three helpers in the season opener. Hodges also had a steal and a block on the defensive end of the floor.

Hodges had a strong summer shooting the basketball in statted scrimmages for the Bucs, but connected on only 5-of-20 shots from the field in the season opener, including going just 1-for-5 from three-point land. That being said, I have no doubts that it will be a big season for the reigning SoCon Freshman of the Year. Mladen Armus started his sophomore season in solid fashion, just missing a double-double with 11 points and nine boards. He also had a team-high three blocks.

Georgia State was led by forward Jeff Thomas' 26 points, while preseason Sun Belt Player of the Year D'Marcus Simonds added 21 points, four rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 39 minutes of floor time. The Panthers swatted away 10 ETSU shots in the season opener.

What Did We Learn About ETSU: We learned that even though this basketball team struggled to score the basketball on the road against one of the better mid-major programs in the country, they found a way to stay in the basketball game. The troubling thing for Forbes and the Bucs in the season opener is that it looked as though the Bucs were going to steal a big road win to open the season with just under eight minutes left, taking a 56-52 lead following a Jeromy Rodriguez layup, however, the Panthers offered what was probably a tide-turning 10-0 run to take a 62-56 lead following three-straight made free throws from Thomas with 4:23 remaining. Thomas had six points and a block during the run. ETSU had another big chance late, following a Armus dunk, which got the Bucs to within a point (68-69) with 1:37 left, but a huge triple from GSU's Damon Wilson with 50 seconds left put the Panthers lead back to four. ETSU will face Hiwassee College Thursday night in the season opener at Freedom Hall.

The Citadel Acquitted itself well in season-opening loss at No. 22 Clemson
I have been calling The Citadel my SoCon darkhorse all off-season, and Duggar Baucom's Bulldogs did nothing to disappoint my overall impressions in the 100-80 season-opening loss at No. 22 Clemson Tuesday night.

The Bulldogs hung around better than most casual college basketball fans would have expected, but ultimately fell for the 16th-straight time in the series against the Tigers. In the respectable 20-point loss to a team known for its defensive prowess in the ACC under Brad Brownell, the Bulldogs still managed to hit 80 points. Something Kansas just managed to do last year against virtually the same cast of characters for Clemson, as the Jayhawks ended the Tigers' season with an 80-76 Sweet Sixteen win last March.

The Bulldogs found themselves with nine points following a Lew Stallworth layup, which trimmed Clemson's lead to just 80-71 with 6:38 to play. However, a Shelton Mitchell three-pointer for Clemson helped commence a 20-9 run to close out the game for the Tigers, as they held off Baucom's pesky Bulldogs.

The Citadel had four players finish the contest in double figures, with Stallworth--a transfer from UT Rio Grande Valley--leading the way with 15 points, while senior sharp-shooting guard Matt Frierson chipped in 12 points, which all came on triples. Kaelon Harris and preseason First-Team All-SoCon selection Zane Najdawi added 11 points apiece.

Six Tigers found their way into double figures in the Palmetto State clash, with Marcquise Reed's 20 points pacing Top 25 Clemson with 20 points on 7-for-13 shooting from the field, including 2-for-6 from three-point range and a perfect 4-for-4 from the line. The Tigers shot the ball at a 55.7% (34-of-61) for the game, including 42.3% (11-of-26) from three-point land.

What Did We Learn About The Citadel: It's not all too often that a Brad Brownell coached ball club gives up 80 points to an opponent, so I think we learned the Bulldogs not only maintained what they have had the previous three seasons under Baucom, but may have improved it with the pieces they have added during the off-season, especially Stallworth, who appears to be more than an adequate replacement for Preston Parks in the backcourt. Watch out for the Bulldogs. The Citadel returns to the floor Monday night, hosting Mid-Atlantic Christian.

Odds and Ends:

Chattanooga opened the 2018-19 season with a solid, 80-69, win over Charlotte. The Mocs have virtually an entire new roster brought in by second-year head coach Lamont Paris. Fairfield transfer Jerry Johnson Jr. was the most impressive of those newcomers in the season opener, leading four Mocs in double figures, finishing with 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the field and 4-for-7 from three, as the Mocs opened the season in style with at Charlotte's Halton Arena.

Donovann Toatley (17 pts), Thomas Smallwood (14 pts) and highly-touted freshman wing Kevin Easley (13 pts) rounded out the double-figure scorers for the Mocs. Chattanooga returns to the floor for its home opener of the 2018-19 season against OVC member Eastern Kentucky. Tip-off for that contest will be 7 p.m.

Mercer was in Birmingham, AL, to face UAB to open the 2018-19 season, and found out why the Blazers are so tough to beat on their home floor, dropping a 75-67 contest at Bartow Arena. Like Paris, Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman basically had to turn over plenty from a year ago, as the Bears graduated all five starters from a team that won 19 games last season.

The youthful Bears were led in the season opener by three players finishing in double figures, with Serbian-born sharp-shooter Djordje Dimitrijevic leading the Bears with 19 points in 20 minutes of floor time. Dimitrijevic was joined in double figures by veteran guards Jaylen Stowe and Ethan Stair, who added 12 and 11 points, respectively, in the season-opening setback. Mercer returns to the floor on Friday when it hosts Piedmont College Friday night in a game slated for a 7 p.m. tip-off.

Furman and VMI faced a pair of Non-Division I foes to open the season this past Tuesday night, with the Paladins scoring a 102-48 win over Bob Jones, while the Keydets posted an 89-56 win over Washington College.

The Paladins rode career-high performances from Matt Rafferty (24 pts) and Jordan Lyons (23 pts), and second-year head coach Bob Richey saw his team commit just three turnovers and dish out 21 assists in the season-opening win. The Paladins have quite a test ahead, facing 2018 Final Four participant Loyola-Chicago at Gentile Arena Friday night. Tip-off for that contest is set for 8 p.m.

The Keydets, too, have a young roster heading into the 2018-19, and add to that, some preseason injuries made Dan Earl's club a little thinner than usual heading into the season opener. Leading the Keydets in their 33-point home-opening win was predictably Bubba Parham.

The 2017-18 SoCon co-Freshman of the Year posted 23 points, leading four Keydets in double-digits. Connor Arnold, who his first-ever three three-point shots ala Furman's Geoff Beans for Furman against Liberty back in the 2014-15 season, finished with 12 points, while Myles Lews and Greg Parham added 13 and 11 points, respectively.

Like Furman, VMI's road gets a little tougher from here, as the Keydets travel to face ACC member Pittsburgh Saturday, with tip-off set for 7 p.m.

Samford is yet another unknown heading into the Southern Conference hoops race in 2018-19, but the Bulldogs showed us all they could against North Alabama in the season opener at the Pete Hanna Center, downing North Alabama, 91-74, on the strength of a blistering 62.3% shooting effort from the floor in the 17-point win.

One of the knowns for the Bulldogs coming into the season was lightning-quick point guard Josh Sharkey, who finished the season opener with 18 points, six rebounds and dished a team-high seven assists. Playing his first game in a Samford uniform, junior guard Myron Gordon led the way with 19 points, while forward Ruben Guerrero added 17 points to close out the double-digit scorers for the Bulldogs. Samford returns to action Friday night, hosting OVC member Jacksonville State at the Hanna Center, with tip-off set for 7:30 p.m. EST

Finally, Carlos Dotson showed why he was one of the top incoming recruits in the Southern Conference leading Western Carolina with 17 points, but it wasn't enough, as the Mark Prosser era began with a 96-73 loss at 2018 NCAA Tournament qualifier Wright State.

Dotson led four Catamounts in double-figures, with sophomore guard Matt Halvorsen (16 pts), forward D.J. Myers (11 pts) and guard Kameron Gibson (10 pts) completing the double-figure scorers for the Catamounts. Wright State forward Bill Wampler led all scorers with 26 points on 9-of-15 from the field, including 5-for-9 from three-point range in the win. Dotson finished with six rebounds in addition to his 17 points. The Catamounts return to action for their home opener against former SoCon rival and reigning CAA champion College of Charleston on Saturday afternoon. Tip-off is set for high noon at the Ramsey Center.

Team of Opening Night:

G--Josh Sharkey--Samford
G--Francis Alonso--UNCG
G--Isaiah Tisdale--ETSU
F--Carlos Dotson--WCU
G--Jerry Johnson Jr.--Chattanooga

Stay tuned for previews and recaps of this weekend's action. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

SoCon Basketball 2018-19: Furman Opens With Big Win

Furman Senior forward Matt Rafferty scores career-high 24 points in 2018-19 season opener
GREENVILLE, S.C.--Junior guard Jordan Lyons and senior forward Matt Rafferty opened the 2018-19 campaign registering career-high point totals, as Furman cruised to a 102-48 win over Bob Jones in the season opener Tuesday night at Timmons Arena.

The 102 points scored by the Paladins in the win marked the sixth time under the direction of head coach Bob Richey, who is now in his second season at the helm, have found their way into triple digits on the scoreboard.

Rafferty posted 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the field and 6-for-9 from the charity stripe, while Lyons connected on 8-of-15 shots from the field, including going 7-for-13 from three-point range. 

Lyons, a native of Peachtree City, GA, was only one three-point field goal shy of tying the school-record set by three different Paladins, with the last being Eric Webb, who did it in 2005 in a big Paladin win over Virginia Intermont. Rafferty added eight boards, five assists, a block and a steal to his career offensive night. Lyons added three helpers to his career-best point total. 

Furman, which had to replace virtually its entire starting backcourt from a year ago, showed uncanny poise for a young backcourt, recording 21 assists to only three turnovers. 

"Coach Richey puts a big emphasis on it and it's something we work really hard to do. We led the league last season in turnover percentage," Rafferty said.

"Going off what Raff said taking care of the basketball is one of the things we value the most as a team offensively and we have a lot of versatility offensively and we are a very unselfish team, and if you look at it we had 21 assists tonight and only three turnovers and I think that just shows how unselfish of a group we are," Lyons added.

The road will certainly get tougher than it was in the season opener for the Paladins, as Furman braces to face 2018 Final Four participant Loyola-Chicago Friday night in the Windy City, however, it was a clinic on how to share the basketball by the Paladins in the 2018-19 season opener.

Furman wouldn't break the basketball open until midway through the opening half of play. With the Paladins holding an 18-14 following a Blake Morgan jumper for the Bruins at the 11:45 mark of the opening half, and the score would remain that way until the second media timeout of the half.

Following the brief respite, the Paladins would break the game open using a 33-15 run to close the opening 20 minutes of basketball and take a 51-29 lead into the halftime locker room. 

The second half saw Richey able to get some of his younger players minutes, as the lead balooned to as large as 54 with a little less than 90 seconds remaining, and 10 of 11 players that logged minutes in the game found their way into the final box score. All told, Furman had four players finish with double-figure scoring performances. 

Sophomore forward Clay Mounce posted 12 points on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting from the field, including connecting on his one attempt from beyond the arc. The Elkin, N.C., native also added seven boards and dished out two assists. 

True freshman guard Mike Bothwell, who logged 21 minutes of floor action, finished with 11 points, two steals and an assist in his first collegiate action. Bothwell's demeanor, which was unflappable for most of the night and enthusiastic, seemed to carry over to the rest of the team. 

"You know as we always talk about we always want good people in our program and when we started recruiting Mike that was the first thing you heard about him and what an unbelievable individual he is and what we started noticing about him once we started to getting to know him is how magnetic his personality was and just how poised he is and he reminded us a lot of Daniel Fowler when we recruited Daniel and he kind of plays with that same type presence and things don't seem to phase him and he doesn't really get bothered and he's a joy to be around," said Richey.

Another young, redshirt sophomore that had a solid game in 24 minutes of floor action was wing guard Tre Clark. The Palmetto, FL, native finished with nine points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field and 1-for-3 three from the line. He had a pair of emphatic dunks, with one coming off a missed shot and the other being a two-handed stuff, which was contested. 

Bob Jones had two players finish with double-figure scoring efforts, with guard Jayson Barnhart leading the way with 13 points, while forward Quintaye Burroughs chipped in with 11.  Guard Jon Allen led the Bruins on the backboards, bringing down a team-high seven caroms. 

The Paladins finished the night connecting on 55.9% (38-of-68) from the field, while holding the Bruins to 42.6% (20-of-47) from the field. Furman was 13-for-34 from three-point land (38.2%) from the field in the game, while Bob Jones went 3-for-11 (27.3%) from long range. 

Furman also held advantages in rebounds (37-20), points in the paint (53-20), bench scoring (30-13), fast break points (16-0), points off turnovers (29-0), second-chance points (12-6) and assists (21-8). Both teams struggled from the charity stripe, with Furman connecting on 61.9% (13-for-21), while the Bruins went just 55.6% (5-for-9) from the stripe. 

Finally, it was a special night for senior guard Andrew Brown, who had a tumultuous off-season, which included a surgery scare that landed him ICU from routine hernia surgery, and a bone fracture in his foot in August. Brown finished the contest with six points on 2-of-7 shooting from the field, including 1-for-6 from three-point land, as he is now finally back to 100%. The senior from Travelers Rest also added three boards and three assists. 

"It felt really good to be back out there. You kinda take this stuff for granted to go out there and play basketball and I can't take it for granted anymore and it was a lot of fun to get out there and have fun with these guys and the rest of the team. It was just fun and enjoyed every second of it," Brown said.

Furman returns to the floor Friday night when it faces 2018 Final Four participant Loyola-Chicago (1-0). Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. EST at Gentile Arena. 

Check back for more updates and previews.

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