BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – If you’re going to extend a 14-game home win streak against a team like Furman, your effort needs to be nearly flawless. Unfortunately for Gardner-Webb, that was not the case Tuesday.
The Paladins withstood a late run and knocked off the homestanding Runnin’ Bulldogs, 70-63, on a night when Gardner-Webb unveiled its 2019 Big South Conference champion and NCAA tournament banners.
“They’ve got good players. They’ve got a good coaching staff. They’ve been a good program here for like, the last three or four years. We knew it was going to be a challenge,” said Gardner-Webb coach Tim Craft. “I thought they were a little more physical than we were, quite honestly, and I thought they deserved to win the game.”
That physicality showed in the form of Furman’s stretch-fours, Noah Gurley and Clay Mounce, who tallied a combined 29 points and 14 boards. Jalen Slawson added five points and nine rebounds for the Paladins, despite being limited to just 20 minutes due to fouls.
“We’ve got, I think, guys that are capable (of defending stretch-fours). I think (forward) Ludovic (Dufeal) is capable, I think Kareem Reid is capable. Eric Jamison can play there, at times,” said Craft. “I think we have guys there that are capable. They’ve just gotta get some experience. Gurley’s a vet, and started for them last year.”
Furman led by just one at the half, 37-36, but came out of the locker room strong. The Paladins stretched their lead as far as 14 near the eight-minute mark, but a 12-0 Gardner-Webb run knifed the lead to a single basket. The Runnin’ Bulldogs never managed to get the final bucket to get them over the hump, however, and Furman put away the hosts.
One of the key reasons the home side could never regain the lead centered around its ability to hold onto the basketball. Furman forced 16 Gardner-Webb turnovers against 18 assists.
“16 turnovers wasn’t good enough,” said Craft. “I thought at times (the ball) was moving, and we got great shots, and we have to be that kind of team. Furman’s too good defensively to kind of hang on to the ball and just try to create something on your own, and when we did that, we turned the ball over, or found ourselves taking a tough shot.”
Furman also limited the Runnin’ Bulldogs to just 9-for-29 from the field in the second half, with many of those baskets coming during the 12-0 run. Gardner-Webb managed to get to the line just four times in the second half, and 14 for the game.
“We’re a team that really gets to the foul line, and we only went to the foul line 14 times. That has to be better for us,” said Craft. “I thought, (in the) second half, we really struggled offensively, but their defense had a lot to do with that.”
Gurley led Furman with 18 points and five boards, while guard Alex Hunter added 13. Mounce added 11 points and nine boards for the Paladins.
Jose Perez paced Gardner-Webb and all scorers with 19 points, adding five rebounds and four assists. Dufeal tallied eight and pulled down 12 boards.
Though Craft acknowledged seeing some positive signs in the first game, he summed up the performance with one simple statement.
“We don’t deserve to beat a good team when we make the mistakes that we made tonight. Furman deserved to win.”
Gardner-Webb will attempt to bounce back with a noon tip Saturday in Cullowhee, N.C. against Western Carolina. The Catamounts fell, 91-72, at Georgia Tuesday. Furman will return home for a contest with Loyola-Chicago in Timmons Arena Friday evening. That game is slated for a 7:00 tip.
For additional detail and analysis on the game, click through to visit our Inside The Numbers breakdown of this game.