The Furman Men’s Basketball Team narrowly defeated the Virginia Military Institutes Keydets on Wednesday, January 26th at Timmons arena. The Paladins, coming off their Saturday victory over Wofford, endured a far more intense struggle than they had a few nights before in Spartanburg. Furman entered the game with a conference record 6-2 and VMI entered with a conference record of 4-4, with one of VMI’s previous victories being over Furman on January 1st. The final score on Wednesday was 79-64.
Keydet Jake Stephens opened the game with a quick three pointer off the tip-off, and in doing so initiated a grindingly defensive first half. Furman’s offence proved largely incapable of penetrating VMI’s zone defense, leading to most of the Din’s points being scored from outside the three-point line. The game progressed essentially point for point up until the last five minutes, at which point the Paladins widened the score gap to nine points, ending the half with a score of 39-30.
Furman seemed to enter the second half expecting to continue to ride the scoring high that they had ended on. It was not to be. The second half proved even more grinding than the first, with the Paladins finding themselves in a rut that they struggled to climb out of. VMI had slowly and stealthily creeped closer and closer to taking the lead from Furman and at 6 minutes and 20 seconds, that is exactly what they did, pushing the score to 56-57. Their lead, however, was short lived. The Paladins staged a comeback in the last six minutes of the game, ending in a flurry of timeouts and foul shots, and walking away having scored a total of 79 points.
This victory over VMI is certainly worthy of celebration, and it has redeemed Furman’s January 1st loss in Lexington. It also raises questions, however, about the Din’s second half slump and what can be done about it. Had Furman found themselves up against a more offensively capable team, the ending of Wednesday’s game may have looked very different.
Starters Conley Garrison and Jalen Slawson led the Paladins in points scored, putting up 22 and 21 points respectively. Furman is now ranked 7th in the nation for three-point field goal percentage at 38.29% and leads the nation in total assists. Furman heads into its next game against Mercer with a record of 7-2.