Few sports offer the type of opportunities college basketball does, especially for a mid-major program like Furman.
“This team right here is special,” Jordan Lyons said. “The way that we believe in each other and the way everyone in this program believes in everyone’s abilities and the confidence that we hold here is something that is just so special.”
“Special” is a good way to describe Lyons’ night on Thursday, and the past week his team just had.
Jordan Lyons ties an NCAA record with 1️⃣5️⃣ threes for @FurmanHoops - just 1 day after Josh Williams did the same for @RMUMBasketball! pic.twitter.com/JemDeeKPgF— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) November 16, 2018
Earlier this season, Furman debuted its new video boards by honoring the first player in college basketball history at any level to score 100 points in a single game, which Frank Selvy accomplished on Feb. 13, 1954. Thursday night, Selvy was on-hand to watch in delight as Lyons delivered a record-setting performance of his own to be highlighted by the new graphics at Timmons Arena.
A week ago, Furman woke up nine-point underdogs to 2018 Final Four participant Loyola Chicago. A week later, the Paladins are 4-0, with a SportsCenter top play on a game-winning dunk, an NCAA record-tying performance for three-pointers made in a single game, and had a player score the most points in an NCAA Division I college basketball game since 2009.
All in a week’s work right?
Just 24 hours after Robert Morris’s Josh Williams tied the NCAA record for most three-point field goals in a single game with 15, Furman’s Jordan Lyons did the same. The junior guard finished with 54 points, connecting on 15-of-34 three-pointers and was 9-for-12 from the charity stripe, as he led Furman to a 107-67 win over Division II North Greenville.
Lyons’ performance is the most points in a Division I game since former Kentucky guard Jodie Meeks scored 54 points against Tennessee on Jan. 13, 2009. His 54 points also marks the most by a Southern Conference player in a game since March 4, 1988 ,when Marshall’s Skip Henderson scored a SoCon Tournament record 55 points in a 121-78 opening round win over The Citadel. Furman now has seven of the top-10 individual single-game scoring performances in SoCon history.
“What a surreal night,” said Lyons, who also set an NCAA record with 34 three-point attempts. “I’m so fortunate and so blessed to be here in this situation and I want to thank God for the talents that he’s blessed me with. It means a lot to be around teammates and coaches who believe in me and have confidence in my abilities.”
Lyons knocked down nine three-point field goals in the first half alone, which set a new Furman career record, as he surpassed David Brown (1988 vs Stanford), Sammie Liberatore (1994 vs. Marshall) and Eric Webb (2004 vs. Virginia Intermont), who each were tied for the all-time single-game school mark with eight.
Lyons acknowledged that what he accomplished tonight was more about how together and engaged this team has been with each other and playing for one another. He cited the expectation and swagger as the watchwords for this team, and the type of mentality that helped them get one of the biggest road wins for Furman in recent memory less than week prior.
That team mentality served him well individually tonight, but he was quick to also point out that no one player was more important than another. His teammates got him the ball in situations which enabled him to tie the record, and once again help Furman collectively tip the national radar early on in the 2018-19 season.
“We went up to Loyola with an expectation to win the game and we knew if we played hard and we played tough and we knew people in the country wouldn’t think were able to do it, but we knew we could do it and we went up there with a certain amount of swagger and we went up there with a certain amount of confidence, Lyons said. “We had an expectation to go up there and win that game and we went up there and won that game, and that’s something that’s very special.”
“And tonight, I know a lot of people are going to make this night about me, but how about my teammates and my coaches and just how excited they were and how into it they were and loving and caring they were throughout this whole night and that’s something special. I mean there was no envy. Everybody wanted it for me and to be in a place where people want me to succeed at that high of a level is something that can only imagine is just not the case everywhere.”
Earlier this summer, I interviewed Lyons about the upcoming season and what he would like to accomplish over his final two seasons at Furman. That interview and story seemed a little bit like foreshadowing for a night like tonight, and what unfolded at Timmons Arena.
For Furman, the 49 threes attempted were a school record and the 21 made three-pointers made tied a school mark. Lyons’ 54-point outburst was the highest scoring total since 62 points from Darrell Floyd in 1956, and the 54 points was the eighth-highest total in a single game in program history.
“The neatest thing about tonight was the engagement of his teammates to want to get that done. About the 10-minute mark, you start thinking about your sub patterns and getting the bench in the game,” head coach Bob Richey said. “Matt Rafferty, of all people, came to me and said, ‘Coach, we’ve got to leave him out there. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.’ Everybody wanted to see him get it,” he added.
Furman, which is off to its first 4-0 start to a season since the 1987-88 season, braces for a trip to meet reigning national champion Villanova Saturday night in a game slated to tip-off at 5 p.m. EST and will be televised by FS2. The eighth-ranked Wildcats dropped a 73-46 decision to Michigan Wednesday night in a rematch of last year’s national title. The Paladins scored a 77-73 upset win in Greenville, S.C. over the Wildcats during that same 1987-88 season, which was the last 4-0 start for the program.