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Villanova Basketball vs Furman Paladins Preview

Villanova looks to right the ship on Saturday but the Furman Paladins could prove to be pesky opposition for the Wildcats.

Furman v Duke Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

“Go on a little win streak and it will not matter. And this will be in the past like a ponytail.” That’s the wisdom the sagacious Klay Thompson dropped on the world this past week, and that’s the mantra the Wildcats need this Saturday at 5:00 p.m. when the team hosts the Furman Paladins at the Finneran Pavillion.

Villanova had an extremely rough go of it Wednesday in a 73-46 loss to #18 Michigan. The Wolverines stifled the Wildcats with stingy man defense, forcing a stomach-churning 19 turnovers. Offensively, UM had it’s way with VU in isolation and scored easily in transition.

Saturday, the Wildcats will look to make Michigan their ponytail (I think I did that right) as undefeated Furman comes to town. The Paladins, who play in and currently sit atop of the Southern Conference, beat Villanova in the two teams’ only other meeting, a 77-73 game in the 1989-90 season.

Furman Team Stats

Season PTS/G Opp PTS/G FG% 3P% FT%
Season PTS/G Opp PTS/G FG% 3P% FT%
2017-2018 79.4 68.5 47.0% 35.6% 71.3%
NCAA Rank 55 71 57 146 170
2018-2019 83.3 64.0 49.7% 34.2% 63.6%
NCAA Rank 99 77 72 175 256

The 2017-18 Paladins finished 3rd in the Southern Conference, going 23-10 overall (13-5 in conference), losing in their conference tournament to East Tennessee State. Kenpom’s final rankings 2017-18 put Furman at 95, four spots ahead of Big East bottom dwellers Depaul. The team’s three leading scoring have graduated but head coach Bob Richey has positioned the team to make another run at a Southern Conference Championship and an automatic bid. Currently the Paladins sit at 146 in KenPom’s rankings and are projected to go 21-9 (12-6) this season.

Furman already has a marquee win on the schedule having defeated the Fightin’ Sister Jeans and Loyola Chicago in their second game of the season, a tense 60-58 affair. Their third game was an equally thrilling contest, an 88-86 overtime win against the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs. So far, the Paladins have shown they can pull out close victories.

The team is led by senior forward Matt Rafferty, a 6’8” forward who averages 22.0 points per game on 64.1% shooting. Rafferty is mostly a threat inside the arc, having missed all five of his three point attempts, but punishes defenders inside with a smooth interior game. The senior forward also leads the team in rebounds (8.3) and assists (5.0) per game, and pitches in 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks. Stopping Rafferty is the first order of business for Villanova.

Beyond Rafferty, the Wildcats will have to deal with Jordan Lyons and Clay Mounce. Lyons and Mounce are both averaging 15.3 points per game, but they do their damage in different ways. Lyons is a small and crafty guard at 5’11” who wants to pull from three whenever there’s daylight. The junior guard has taken 73.5% his shots from three so far this season, hitting 38.7% of them. (Editor’s Note: Yesterday Lyons tied the NCAA record for 3’s in a game (15) and set the NCAA record for 3’s attempted (34) en route to a 54 point night.)

Meanwhile Mounce, a 6’7” sophomore forward, has an inside outside game and is an efficient scorer, shooting 65.5% from the floor and 50.0% from three on 2.7 attempts per game.

For those assuming Villanova would turn the page on Michigan with an easy win against lowly competition — proceed carefully. Furman is a upper-tier mid-major that likes to shoot from three but has capable interior players. The Paladins have begun the season defending well, boasting the 62nd best opponent offensive rebound percentage, 81st best opponent 3P%, and is top-100 in block and steal rate.

Still, Villanova has everything it needs to comfortably dispatch Furman and get back to winning ways. Rafferty and Mounce’s inside game should not bother the likes of Eric Paschall and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, who are solid interior defenders and out-rival their opponents in size and strength. Generally speaking, Villanova will have a massive advantage in size and length which should allow the Wildcats to force turnovers and get out in transition.

Offensively, Villanova has to take care of the ball. The team has committed 46 turnovers in its first three games, and a lot of that falls on the shoulders of Eric Paschall, Collin Gillespie, and Phil Booth. Furman should not be able to bother Villanova like Michigan did, but the Wildcats still committed 24 turnovers against the likes of Morgan State and Quinnipiac. After that, it’s about making shots. Nothing went down for VU on Wednesday, but the ‘Cats should bounce back nicely against a Furman team that can’t contest Villanova’s superior athletes at the rim.

The opportunity to move on from Wednesday is there for the taking, let’s hope the Wildcats seize the moment.