Scouting Report: Furman

Vanderbilt returns to Memorial on tonight to face the Furman Paladins. Furman, a member of the Southern Conference, has been predicted by a coaches' poll to finish second behind Davidson this season. Tipoff: 5 p.m.

Furman is led by returning juniors Moussa Diagne, Robby Bostain, and Eric Webb. Senior point guard Tony Carter is the fourth returning scorer on the team. These were the four leading scorers on last year's Furman team. Furman was expecting Quan Powell to return and make contributions. Last year, as a freshman, Powell averaged 15.2 points per game, but he was only permitted to play 14 games because of eligibility issues. Powell chose not to return to Furman in the wake of these issues, making the small forward position a question mark for the Paladins.

Moussa Diagne (pronounced MOO-sah Jine) is a 6-8 power forward from Senegal. He was named to the preseason All-Southern Conference team after an outstanding sophomore year in which he averaged 12 points and 5 rebounds per game. Most of his playing experience, including all of his time at Furman, is at the center position, but he moved to power forward in part to make room for new starter Stanley Jones. Diagne is a strong athlete with shot-blocking ability, and he has seen experience with Senegal's national team. Carter, Webb, and Bostain make up a very experienced backcourt, with emphasis on perimeter shooting. The three are each capable of playing both guard positions, and will be expected to fill in at the small forward slot. Robby Bostain is the best scorer of the three, averaging 11 points and 4 rebounds last season, on 41.5% three point shooting. Bostain is a solid defensive presence, and rarely commits fouls. Eric Webb is the team's three-point specialist – he shot 38.5% on his 200 3pt attempts last season. Webb also led the team in minutes per game with 30. He will play on the wing this season, but his talents seem better suited to a more pure shooting guard role. Webb has 194 career assists in only two seasons. As in Vanderbilt's offense, Furman's offense has very little distinction between the shooting guard and small forward position, but Webb and Bostain may have trouble matching up against Vanderbilt's large, athletic wing players.

Tony Carter, at point guard, is the most experienced player on the team. Carter was a 39% three-point shooter. However, with 90 assists and 70 turnovers last season, he has a surprisingly poor passing efficiency. Those watching Saturday's game should look for Bostain and Webb (with 108 and 94 assists respectively) to take on some of the traditional "point guard" roles, as all three guards on the team seem roughly interchangeable.

The Commodores are coming off an average performance against Jacksonville State, in which the offense was inconsistent, but the second half demonstrated that the Commodores could combine stifling defense with a solid fast break and half-court offense. This game will be a slightly tougher test for Vanderbilt, but Vanderbilt can still expect a relatively easy victory. Here are the keys to the game for the Commodores:

(1) Julian Terrell and Ted Skuchas must establish at least as strong of a post presence as they had in the Jacksonville State game. Furman's Moussa Diagne is a better post player than anybody on the JSU or Northern State squads, so post defense will also be put to the test.

(2) The Commodores must be able to effectively defend the three point shot. Three of Furman's four top scorers are prolific three point shooters, so this will likely be the main focus on Coach Stallings on the defensive end. Furman's offense does not work when the three point shot is not an effective option. (3) Shan Foster and Derrick Byars must shine offensively. Look for Coach Stallings to rotate Byars into the post when the Paladins use a man defense, especially if Byars is being guarded by Carter or Webb. If Foster can get some dribble penetration, it will be a very good sign for the Commodores:

Prediction – Vanderbilt 82, Furman 58

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