The Furman Paladins opened up the highly anticipated 2023-2024 basketball season with their first non-conference game against the North Greenville Crusaders at Timmons Arena. The game concluded with a closer score than many had anticipated, but demonstrated deeper signs of the Paladins’ potential this season.
Notable additions included PJay Smith Jr., a guard transfer from Lee University, Cooper Bowser, a 6’11 freshman from Woodbridge, Va., and Davis Molnar, a redshirt freshman from Fayetteville, N.C. All three of these new players joined the veteran players on the court, including Garret Hien (forward), Marcus Foster (guard), Alexander Williams (forward), and Tyrese Hughey (forward).
The beginning of the game saw Furman’s defense struggling to maintain possession of the ball, as well as North Greenville hitting a series of successful three pointers to keep the score neck-and-neck in the first half. The Dins struggled to make three-pointer shots but were able to effectively weave through the Crusaders’ defense to score layups and dunks throughout the first half. Both teams were heavily fouled, which slowed down the pace of the game as possession changed hands and both teams lined up for free throws multiple times. The first half concluded with Furman leading 42-32, with the North Greenville Crusaders hitting a three-point buzzer beater to conclude the half.
The second half saw a much more organized Furman team, with much more consistent scoring throughout. Furman’s usage of a 1-3-1 offense strategy (an offensive maneuver that creates a triangle formation on the wing) helped the Dins find more success in their 2-point field goal attempts. Notable scorers included Carter Whitt (guard), PJay Smith Jr. (guard), and Marcus Foster (guard) who led the team with a total score of 18 points. Successful layups primarily contributed to Furman’s high field goal percentage (45.8% compared to North Greenville’s 36.4%). The game concluded with Cooper Bowser’s (forward) defiant dunk, assisted by Carter Whitt (guard), ending the score with a 84-68 Furman victory.
All in all, while the score remained closer than some Furman students anticipated, the Paladins demonstrated enormous talent. The new players proved themselves capable and diverse in talent, and the older players demonstrated a significant improvement in performance. As the season progresses, Coach Richey’s improvements on keeping the team coordinated and unified will no doubt turn the Paladins into a dangerous force to be reckoned with.