Furman heads to North Carolina State Tuesday

Furman junior center Garrett Hien/photo courtesy of Furman athletics

Furman (7-3, 0-0 SoCon) at North Carolina State (8-3, 0-2 ACC), 6:30 p.m. EST

Date and Venue: Dec. 13, 2022/PNC Arena (19,722)

Series: 34th meeting/North Carolina State leads 31-2

Coaches: Furman-Bob Richey (118-49/6th yr.)/NC State-Kevin Keatts (98-71/6th yr)

Preview:

Furman heads and North Carolina State will square off on the college basketball hardwood for the first time since Nov. 27, 1985, when the Wolfpack got a lopsided, 94-56, win over the Paladins at Reynolds Coliseum. The Paladins will be facing their first ACC foe since almost a year ago to the day, when the Paladins traveled up tobacco road to face North Carolina, as the Paladins were dealt a 74-61 against a Tar Heels team that would end up going on to the national championship game before losing to Kansas, 72-69, ending what had been a remarkable run for the ACC member.

Furman hasn’t been all that successful, as one would expect, against the Wolfpack in the series between the two. The Wolfpack have won 31 of the 33 meetings between the two, which includes having won the past seven meetings between the two, which dates back to the 1978-79 season. Furman’s last win over the Wolfpack came back in the 1977-78 season, as the Paladins captured what was a 68-67 win over the Wolfpack at the North-South Classic in Charlotte, N.C.

On Feb. 4, 1978 and led by a 26-point effort from Furman star forward Jonathan Moore, the Paladins were able to capture the one-point win over the Wolfpack. That win over the Wolfpack was against pretty good N.C. State basketball team, which went to finish the 1977-78 campaign with a 21-10 record under then head coach Norm Sloan.

That Wolfpack team posted a 7-5 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which was good enough for a third-place finish in the standings by season’s end. The Wolfpack would feature in one of the best ACC Championship games in the history of the league that same season, losing a 109-108 decision to Lefty Driesell’s Maryland Terrapins.

Sloan’s Wolfpack would move onto the National Invitational Tournament, knocking off South Carolina (82-70), Detroit-Mercy (84-77) and Georgetown (86-85, OT) before eventually running out of gas in the championship game, dropping a 101-93 decision to Texas.

NC State featured players like sophomore guard Hawkeye Whitney, who led the Wolfpack in scoring, averaging 15.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG and 1.8 APG, as well as others like such as 6-6 junior forward Tony 9Warren (11.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.4 APG) and sophomore guard Clyde Austin (12.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 4.2 APG)

Furman, meanwhile, would go on to capture the Southern Conference Tournament title following a fourth-place finish in the league. The Paladins would finish 19-11 under the direction of then head coach Joe Williams, and lost a heartbreaking, 63-62, contest to the Indiana Hoosiers.

The Paladins defeated Chattanooga (W, 83-73), Appalachian State (W, 72-68) and Marshall (W, 69-53) en route to capturing the Southern Conference Tournament crown. In addition to Moore, that Paladin basketball team featured greats like guard Al Daniel (17.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG), as well as guards Bruce Grimm (17.0 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 1.4 APG) and Rodney Arnold (13.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG).

The Paladins did play its first road game of the 2021-22 season on the road against an ACC foe, as the Paladins were able to come away from the KFC Yum Center with an 80-72 road win on that particular occasion, snapping what had been a 59-game non-conference winning streak in the month of November at the Yum Center in the process.

Furman has faced a couple of power six foes this season, facing off against both Penn State and South Carolina at the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic. The Paladins were able to get a 79-60 win over the Gamecocks in their final game of the tournament, while having dropped a 73-68 decision to the Nittany Lions. In case you missed it, that Penn State team recently improved to 7-3 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten by getting what was a massive road win at No. 17 Illinois, winning in dominant fashion, 74-59.

Furman’s win over Louisville last season marked the first time the Paladins had defeated an ACC foe since knocking off Florida State in Tallahassee, 79-74, on Dec. 4, 2000.

N.C. State, which was a member of the Southern Conference from the 1921-22 season until playing their last season as a league member in 1952-53. The final seven years of N.C. State’s Southern Conference membership saw them win seven-straight SoCon Tournament titles, while winning six of the final seven SoCon regular-season titles before leaving to join the ACC at the conclusion of the 1952-53 season.

The 1950-51 Wolfpack team, which was coached by the legendary Everette Case, finished off one of the most memorable seasons in Southern Conference basketball history, finishing the campaign with a 30-7 overall record, and had a 13-1 mark in league play.

North Carolina State came into the 2022-23 season coming off what was a forgettable 2021-22 campaign, as the Wolfpack could muster just an 11-21 season, which included just a 4-16 mark in ACC play, as the Wolfpack finished 14th (dead last) in the league standings.

With the addition of transfers like Winthrop big man D.J. Burns, and talented Ole Miss guard Jarkel Joiner have both made this NC State team better, and one that should finish the season in the middle of the pack in the ACC and will likely be in contention for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid in March.

If the Paladins are going to get a win over the Wolfpack, they’ll likely have to do it against another streak much like it had to do last season against a big streak at Louisville, as the Wolfpack are 42-2 against non-conference foes at home during the Kevin Keatts era.

A brief look at the Wolfpack

NC State sophomore guard Terquavion Smith/photo courtesy of NC State athletics

Furman has seen some great scoring guards during non-conference play this season, having faced the likes of Penn State’s Jalen Pickett, Belmont’s Will Shepherd, and High Point’s Jaden House, but perhaps no guard tandem is as good as the one the Paladins will face when they take on the Wolfpack Wednesday night, with the likes of Terquavion Smith (17.8 PPG) and Jarkel Joiner (17.6 PPG), who transferred in from Ole Miss, currently rank second and third in the ACC in points per game, respectively.

Dating back to March of last season, the Wolfpack have had four different 30-point scorers, with Jack Clark scoring 33 points last season (Mar. 5) in a win over Duquesne, while D.J. Burns posted a 30-point effort in a game for Winthrop last season against Mary Baldwin, while Terquavion Smith did so in games at North Carolina (34 points) and at Florida State (30 points) last season. Joiner scored 34 points in his time with CSU Bakerfield two years ago, and flirted with a 30-point effort just last week in NC State’s win over Coppin State, finishing with a season-high 29 in the 22-point victory.

In NC State’s last game against Miami, which saw the Wolfpack drop their second ACC contest of the season, with an 80-73 loss to the Hurricanes, both Smith and Joiner combined the score 45 of those points, with Joiner pacing the Pack with 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field, which included a 3-for-6 from three-point range. His teammate and backcourt mate completed the contest connecting on just 7-of-17 shots from the field, including 3-for-11 from downtown.

The Wolfpack led for 38 minutes of the game against the Hurricanes, but couldn’t hold off Miami, as the 2021 Elite Eight qualifier went on to outscore 18-6 over the final 3:40 of the game.

Smith ranks third in the ACC in scoring, posting a season-high 33 points in a win over Coppin State last week. His 20 steals this season rank him third in the league, while his 33 triples ranks him third in the league for three-pointers made. He is both a leading candidate to garner ACC Player of the Year honors, as well as being maybe the league’s top NBA prospect.

Joiner, meanwhile, ranks third in the ACC in scoring (17.6 PPG) and has been especially hot as of late, scoring a season-high 29 points in NC State’s win over Coppin State, while finishing as NC State’s leading scorer last time out in the loss to Miami, as he totaled 26 points.

The third guard in the NC State starting lineup is senior Casey Morsell (12.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG), who is the Wolfpack’s best perimeter shooter, as his 48.3% shooting clip ranks third overall in the ACC this season, as he has knocked down 28-of-58 shots from long-range so far through 11 games this season.

Earlier this season in a win over Florida International, Morsell finished with a career-high 26 points, which included knocking down six three-pointers in a 107-74 win. The Fort Washington, MD, product was originally a four-star recruit in the Class of 2019.

Completing the projected starting five for the Wolfpack heading into the Tuesday night clash are both 6-8 guard Jack Clark (8.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG) and 6-9 center D.J. Burns (8.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG), who of course transferred into NC State from Winthrop. Clark leads the ACC in steals (23) so far through 11 games this season, while ranking 10th overall in the ACC in rebounding (7.0 RPG). Clark is a “do-everything” type player for the Wolfpack much the same way Jalen Slawson is for the Paladins, posting some similar stat lines through the first 11 games this season.

He had a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds in a win over Campbell earlier this season, while also posting a career-high five steals in that win over the Camels. In the opener against Austin Peay, Clark finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks in a 99-50 win.

Burns rounds out the projected starting five at center and has been asked to do more after seeing his minutes drastically increase following an injury to Dusan Mahoric, who suffered a dislocated right kneecap in the recent win over Coppin State last week. Prior to his exit, Mahoric was averaging 8.7 PPG and 6.6 RPG prior to his injury.

Burns insertion into the lineup coincided with his season-best scoring performance of 16 points last time out against Miami, as he went 8-of-16 from the field in a season-high 31 minutes of floor action. Burns also has double-figure scoring efforts against Austin Peay (10 pts), Dayton (10 pts), Butler (14 pts) and Pitt (13 pts). He is shooting a solid 52.0% (39-of-75) from the field this season. He faced off against the Paladins last season at Winthrop, as he posted 12 points and six boards in an 85-80 win for the Eagles.

Noting the Paladins:

Furman has struggled defensively throughout non-conference play but saw a little bit of an improvement last time out against Winthrop in what was an 82-65 win over the Eagles last time out, holding the Eagles to just under 50% shooting for the game, as Winthrop shot 49.0% (24-of-49) from the field, including limiting the Eagles to just a 5-for-21 (23.8%) effort from three-point range in the win.

The Paladins continue to be led by their own dynamic duo this season, in both Mike Bothwell (20.3 PPG. 4.0 RPG, 4.6 APG) and Jalen Slawson (15.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 3.9 APG), who are both potential Southern Conference Player of the Year candidates. Slawson is coming off a season-high 25-point scoring effort the last time out against Winthrop. Bothwell scored 30 points in Furman’s win at Louisville last season and had a season-high 29 points in a loss to High Point last week.

While the Paladins are allowing opponents to shoot 47.3% from the field and score 70.7 PPG this season, the Paladins have been one of the most efficient offenses in college basketball this season, as Furman currently ranks 20th nationally in effective field goal percentage (57.4%), while ranking 11th overall in team field goal percentage (50.4%).

Garrett Hien might be a player to keep an eye on in Tuesday night’s clash against the power five foe. The Charlotte, N.C. native posted a career-high 20 points earlier this season in Furman’s 79-60 win over South Carolina and had 18 points and 11 boards in Furman’s win at Louisville last season.

Furman vs. Power Six under head coach Bob Richey (3-11)

Nov. 17, 2022 vs. Penn State (L, 68-73/Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic)

Nov. 19, 2022 vs. South Carolina (W, 79-60/Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic)

Dec. 17, 2021 at Mississippi State (L, 66-69)

Dec. 14, 2021 at North Carolina (L, 61-74)

Nov. 12, 2021 at Louisville (W, 80-72/OT)

Dec. 9, 2020 at Cincinnati (L, 73-78)

Dec. 15, 2020 at Alabama (L, 80-83)

Dec. 5, 2019 at No. 13 Auburn (L, 78-81)

Nov. 19, 2019 at Alabama (L, 73-81)

Dec. 21, 2018 at LSU (L, 57-75)

Nov. 17, 2018 at No. 8 Villanova (W, 76-68 OT)

Dec. 20, 2017 at No. 20 Tennessee (L, 61-66)

Nov. 20, 2017 at No. 1 Duke (L, 63-92)

Nov. 18., 2017 at Butler (L, 65-82)

Published by soconjohn

I am a lover of all things SoCon, and I have had a passion to write about, follow and tell the world about this great conference for pretty much my entire life. While I do love the SoCon, and live in the SoCon city, which is home to the Furman Paladins, have a passion for sports in general, with college football and college hoops topping the list.

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