GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — Furman coach Bob Richey says sophomore forward Clay Mounce does not understand how good he can be. Anyone watching Mounce’s play against UNC Wilmington is starting to figure that out.
Mounce tied his career best with 26 points and added 10 rebounds as No. 23 Furman ran past the Seahawks, moving to 12-0 with a 93-50 victory Saturday.
Mounce had six of the Paladins’ 17 3-pointers, along with five assists, two blocks and two steals. The best moment, though, may have been Mounce’s laser-like, three-quarter-court bounce pass to a streaking Alex Hunter for an easy layup — a breathtaking play that should be on national highlight shows.
“I don’t know about that,” Mounce said. “It’ll probably be on the Furman Twitter, though.”
Mounce and the Paladins are gradually making themselves a centerpiece of college basketball this season. They’ve beaten defending national champ Villanova and Final Four participant Loyola-Chicago, the latter on Mounce’s game-winning shot.
They looked like one of the nation’s best teams as they opened a large lead by halftime and gradually pulled away from UNC Wilmington.
“That was fun,” Furman coach Bob Richey said.
Next up for the Paladins is a road test at LSU on Dec. 21, their last significant challenge before Southern Conference play.
If the 6-foot-7 Mounce keeps playing like he did against the Seahawks (4-7), the Paladins will be in strong shape.
Mounce tied his career best for points set earlier this year in a win over Gardner-Webb. His rebounds were his second-best output this season.
Furman’s leading scorer, Jordan Lyons, who scored zero points against Charleston Southern, rebounded with 16 points off four 3-pointers.
Furman seemed a bit more composed in its second-ever home game as a ranked team. The Paladins struggled to find their rhythm until final 10 minutes of a 77-69 win over Charleston Southern on Tuesday night. This time, they outscored UNC Wilmington 26-13 over the final 10 minutes of the opening half.
Mounce was in the middle of it for Furman, starting the surge with back-to-back 3s. He hit two more from behind the arc and when Matt Rafferty muscled home a layup against two defenders with 15.3 seconds left, the Paladins led 40-21 and were not challenged the rest of the way.
The Seahawks cut the deficit to 43-33 on Jeantal Cylla’s three-point play with 17:11 left. That’s when Furman took off on a 25-9 run to make the game a blowout.
“It was complete,” Richey said. “That was one our most complete performances of the year and it was great to see the defensive intensity back.”
Devontae Cacok had 11 points to lead UNC Wilmington.
Alex Hunter made four 3-pointers and had 14 points, and Rafferty added 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Paladins.
THE BIG PICTURE
UNC Wilmington: The Seahawks were in the NCAA Tournament two years ago and played for a Colonial Athletic Conference tournament crown last March before falling to Charleston in overtime in the finals. But UNC Wilmington has had two three-game losing streaks this season and has just two more chances to straighten things out before league play starts with the Cougars on Dec. 29.
Furman: The Paladins have met every test so far and will need to keep firing to make it through LSU of the Southeastern Conference. A blend of outside shooting and strong defense (Furman forced 15 turnovers Saturday) has them playing at a high level.
Richey suspended two freshmen for the game: guard Jaylon Pugh and forward Noah Gurley. The coach said it was his decision and it wasn’t because of academics, failed drug tests or arrests. “They just did what college kids do,” Richey said. Both will be available to face LSU next week.
UNC Wilmington coach C.B. McGrath told his players they can show their mental toughness the next time they take the court.
“You better hope they have some sort of fight in them the next game,” he said. “You don’t ever want to get embarrassed. … What’s going to determine what type of heart we have is how we bounce back.”
UNC Wilmington plays at Georgia State on Wednesday night.
Furman visits LSU on Friday night.
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