The darlings of the early college basketball season? That’s an easy one.
Say hello to the Furman Paladins. That would be the 5-0 Furman Paladins, who took their barnstorming tour into Finneran Pavilion Saturday and stunned Villanova 76-68 in overtime. Time to notice what these guys have been up to, and what they’re about. Thirteen things to know about the Paladins:
1. In the past nine days, they have upset half of last April’s Final Four. First, there was Clay Mounce’s dunk with 1.6 seconds left that beat Loyola of Chicago 60-58, after Furman trailed by 13 points in the second half. Then came Saturday, when all five starters scored in double figures, while the Paladins outrebounded Villanova by seven and defended the Wildcats into 33.8 percent shooting.
2. Furman is one of the smallest schools in Division I, with 2,700 students on the Greenville, S.C. campus.
3. The defending national champions were shocked Saturday by a program that has not appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 38 years. Furman has one NCAA Tournament victory in its history – 1974 against South Carolina.
4. Jordan Lyons, only 5-11, led Furman at Villanova with 17 points. Good game, but that was 37 fewer points than he scored two days earlier. In a 107-67 victory over Division II North Greenville, he tied an NCAA record by hitting 15 3-pointers, and his 54 points were the most by a Division I player in nine years.
5. Furman has only played Villanova twice in history. Both went overtime. The Paladins won them both.
6. Furman just did what no team has accomplished in five years – hand Villanova a second consecutive loss.
7. Who saw this coming? Furman lost all-league players Devin Sibley and Daniel Fowler – Nos. 7 and 29 on the school’s all-time scoring list – from last year’s 23-10 team. The Paladins were picked to finish fourth in the Southern Conference.
8. Why the Paladins? A sportswriter coined the name for the basketball team in the 1930s, a Paladin being a knight on a white horse. But until 1961, the school couldn't make up its mind. The baseballers went by Hornets, the footballers were the Hurricane. A student vote in 1961 made it Paladins for everyone.
9. Furman’s tallest players are listed at 6-8. One of them, senior Matt Rafferty, had 17 rebounds at Villanova.
10. Furman is 5-0 for the first time in 31 years. Two of the wins were overtime, as the Paladins also went extra to beat Gardner-Webb 88-86.
11. This is Bob Richey’s second year as a head coach, and he’s 28-11, counting one loss as an interim coach. He graduated from college summa cum laude with a business degree. His alma mater is North Greenville, the school Lyons torched on Thursday.
12. Two-time NBA All-Star Frank Selvy is Furman’s most famous basketball product. On Feb.13, 1954, he scored 100 points for Furman against Newberry College. He is still the only Division I player ever to do that.
13. And finally, here’s a date to remember. Dec. 21, the next time the Paladins go hunting for big game. Furman at LSU. The Tigers have been duly warned.