Furman (2-0) defeated hosts Columbia (0-2) 62-58 on Monday night thanks to a strong second half performance. Sophomore guard Richard Brown scored a career-high 15 points and added four assists, while senior guard Bobby Austin added another 13 for Furman, which outscored Columbia 43-28 in the final 20 minutes. Junior guard Brian Barbour had 16 points and six rebounds for the Lions.
The Light Blue’s star guard Noruwa Agho scored 12 points with four rebounds and five assists, but injured his left knee after tripping during a drive and left the game with 6:19 remaining. Columbia at the time was nursing a 46-45 lead. Head coach Kyle Smith was unable to provide an update on Agho’s injury.
The Light Blue started strong, racing out to a 9-0 lead in the first six minutes and steadily building its lead to a maximum of 13 points with just over a minute left in the first half. Columbia’s scoring during the first 20 minutes was balanced, with eight points from Agho, six from Barbour, and from two to four from the other Lions, who led 30-19 at halftime. The sloppy first period featured 15 turnovers between both squads. Only 26 out of 44 overall rebounds were recovered by the defending team, and the teams made only 17 of 57 shots from the field. Part of the reason for this trend was the Lions’ defense, which was successful in the first half with an aggressive man-to-man scheme—a strategy that Furman did not adjust to early on. The Paladins shot only 25 percent in the first half.
Despite the pressure, the Lions only surrendered their first free-throws three minutes into the second half, and were credited with a mere five personal fouls in the first half—though two were to junior starting center Mark Cisco, who only played 13 minutes—compared to 10 for Furman.
“We knew they were going to be a physical team,” Smith said.
After halftime, however, the story line flipped in favor of the Paladins.
Furman came out in the second half having rediscovered its shooting touch, cutting into the Lions’ lead by five in the first 3:49 of the second half. The Paladins took the lead for good on a three-pointer by junior forward Bryant Irwin which put them up 52-49 with 2:09 left. Furman more than doubled its output in the second half, scoring 43 points. Both Brown and Austin scored 13 points in the second half after scoring two and zero, respectively, in the first.
Smith singled out Brown’s effort for praise.
“We were trying to make him beat us, and he did,” Smith said.
In its previous game against Roanoke, Furman improved its shooting efficiency after halftime as well, shooting 31.4 percent in the first period but recovering to 39.1 percent for the game.
Furman switched defensive schemes in the second half to play a man-on-man defense which stifled the Lions’ offense. The Light Blue only scored 14 points in the first 12 minutes of the second half, though it finished the period with 28 after a high-scoring final four minutes which saw the Paladins outscore the Lions 15-11.
Barbour highlighted the Lions’ offensive troubles.
“They’re big, they’re coming over and making it tough for us to finish,” Barbour said. “We always talk about kicking it out. I think we need to do that more if we’re struggling to finish.”
The sentiments were echoed by the coach.
“They defended us really well in the second half, and we couldn’t get it done,” Smith said.
“You’ve just got to finish sometimes, too,” Barbour added.
A positive in the loss was the strong play of freshmen guard Alex Rosenberg and center Cory Osetkowski. Rosenberg had seven points to go with seven rebounds in 25 minutes that at times demanded he play as a forward, while Osetkowski played 27 minutes and scored seven points with four rebounds.
Smith praised the rookies’ efforts while making it clear that putting them on the court for long wasn’t part of the initial plan.
“Alex gives us a skillful guy that can play both forward spots,” Smith said. “He’s quick and can bother some guys. Cory will be good. I really didn’t want to play them that much tonight, but Mark couldn’t stay out of foul trouble.”
Columbia will look for its first win of the season against American on Saturday.