The Furman Paladins faced off against the Penn State Nittany Lions on Nov. 17 at TD Arena in the College of Charleston. This thrilling game was a part of the Shriner’s Children’s Charleston Classic competition, a bracketed competition of D1 basketball teams from all across the nation. The Penn State Nittany Lions were by far the biggest-name school the Dins have played this season, and as such the match was seen as an indicator of whether or not Furman can be expected to compete on a national level when it comes to college basketball. 

The first quarter saw nothing but an absolute decimation of Furman from Penn State players. Sports commentators noted that certain strategies by players–such as how Jalen Slawson (forward) often nudges his opponents backwards, inching toward the basket, and then explodes into action for a successful lay-up—were simply not working due to the massive size advantage the Nittany Lions enjoyed over the Paladins. Most of the Paladin three pointer attempts were missing, and forwards charging for a lay-up often were blocked. The score at the end of the first quarter was an abysmal 29-46 in favor of Penn State, and it seemed that Furman was no match for a massive school that currently ranked number one for basketball in the B1G conference. 

Then, the buzzer sounded and the second half began. 

I don’t know what Bob Richey, Head Coach of the Furman Men’s Basketball team, must’ve told his players during halftime. But whether it was his inspiring words or simply the Dins using the first half of the game as a warm-up session, the Furman Paladins roared to life and entered the second half of the game like a completely different team. After a series of successful three-pointers, many of which were thrown by Mike Bothwell (guard) and Tyrese Hughey (forward), Furman found momentum and barreled forward while Penn State launched a series of uncoordinated offensive attempts. The gap soon closed to as close as 3 points, and the Dins narrowed the score to 68-71 with seconds left until the end of the game. After two successful free throws by the Nittany Lions, however, the score settled at 68-73 with Penn State claiming victory. 

While this game was a decisive loss for the Paladins, I saw two different Paladin teams throughout the game. The Dins entered the first half as players who seemed unsure of what to do in the face of the physically larger Penn State players. The Paladins then emerged out of the second half as a college basketball team that showed it can indeed compete on a national level and enter March Madness this year. The effort shown by Furman was nothing short of amazing. They transformed Penn State from a confident team to a team that ended the second half of the game simply trying to hang on to their lead.