You’ve read the recap. Now, let’s go inside the numbers on Furman’s season-opening victory at Gardner-Webb.
- Gardner-Webb coach Tim Craft said of his team’s performance, “16 turnovers wasn’t good enough … 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.” Craft makes a solid point here, as his Runnin’ Bulldogs turned over the ball on a significant 23.2 percent of its possessions Tuesday night, versus scoring on 39.1 percent. Furman, conversely, committed miscues on 17.1 percent, while scoring at just shy of a 50 percent clip.
- The Runnin’ Bulldogs struggled to finish at the tin, as evidenced by their posting just 24 points in the paint (Furman scored 38). This is atypical of a standard Gardner-Webb performance, as was the listed number of 8-for-17 on layups. In a seven-point game against a highly efficient club, those points could have made a significant difference.
- Furman’/s Noah Gurley creates matchup problems for every team he faces as a “stretch-four”, but his veteran presence and quickness off the dribble was on full display in Boiling Springs. Gurley poured in 18 points and snared five rebounds in 30 minutes of play, but perhaps equally impressive was the fact that he tallied just one foul in roughly 30 minutes of game time after collecting two before the third first-half media. The concept of defending without fouling is a staple among our conversations with coaches, and despite the Paladins’ depth at Gurley’s position, they could ill afford to spend long stretches without him.
- Gardner-Webb did an outstanding job of sealing off Furman sharpshooter Jordan Lyons — except for one shot. Lyons, who averaged 16.2 points per game last season and shot nearly 40 percent from distance, connected on just one of his six attempted threes Tuesday. The one he hit, though, came off a defensive play that could have easily led to a Gardner-Webb runout and a tied game, enabling the 2,475 in the stands to raise the volume level to 11. Instead, the Nate Johnson block of an Alex Hunter attempt in the paint fortuitously caromed to Tre Clark, who snapped a pass to Lyons on the left wing. Lyons splashed the shot, which helped turn what could have been a level game at 41 into a 19-7 Furman run that put Gardner-Webb behind the eight ball.
- Results aside, there were plenty of things on which to build for Gardner-Webb. To wit:
- Gardner-Webb outrebounded an efficient Furman team, 38-32. The Runnin’ Bulldogs enjoyed a nearly 2-to-1 advantage on the offensive boards, 13-7. Forward Ludovic Dufeal snagged 12 of those boards, and Dufeal’s transformation from last year continues. Dufeal’s athleticism, activity, and strength is noticeably different than last year, and his continued development will be a key as this team heads toward conference play.
- The Runnin’ Bulldogs knocked down 10-of-24 triples (42 percent), which goes along with Craft’s assessment at Media Day that the extension of the three-point line would likely not be too significant of an impediment for his side. First-team All-Conference selection Jose Perez dropped three of those makes, as did freshman guard Lance Terry. Terry scored nine points in eight minutes off the pine, though he did add three fouls to that total. If Terry continues to show a steady hand from the arc and can develop as a defender, his key minutes are likely to increase through the year.
- Gardner-Webb did record 18 assists on 22 buckets, so even with the high turnover total, that statistic shows that some of the offensive stagnation issues that plagued the Runnin’ Bulldogs at times were — in spurts, anyway — showing signs of disappearing. Perez’ success has led to increased double-teams (or, rarely, triple-teams), and the offense will need to continue to move that inevitable open man more toward the basketball to receive a pass or set a screen to free Perez to create as the season goes along.
This was a significant road win for a really good, smart, experienced, and well-coached Furman club. The Paladins lost bruising forward Matt Rafferty off last year’s club, but appear to have adjusted nicely into the personnel they do have. Bob Richey’s club shows great defensive activity, an ability to drive and create, and a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
Conversely, this was a tough loss for Gardner-Webb, but should prove to be an instructive one. When asked in the postgame press availability what he told his team in the locker room, he said as much.
“(I told them) that I didn’t think we played particularly well, but still had a chance to win, which I guess you could say is encouraging,” said Craft. “We didn’t play very well on both ends, (and) we had the ball down two there with a chance to tie it. The game was right there for us, so we’ve got a lot to build on.”
Big South writer and respected basketball voice Brian Mull summed up pretty well what we saw, thusly:
Don’t be at all surprised to see both of these teams playing well into March. They’re both young, well-coached, and have plenty of room to grow.