Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Bothwell caps Furman rally with game-winner

Mike Bothwell's three-point play with 3.8 seconds left lifted Furman to
a 58-57 win over UT-Arlington Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Furman
ELON, N.C. - After posting career-highs in points, rebounds and assists in Furman's blowout win Tuesday night, it seemed there'd be no way Mike Bothwell could do anything to top that Wednesday afternoon.

But he did.

Bothwell's three-point play with 3.8 seconds lifted the Paladins to a 58-57 comeback win over UT-Arlington in the Battle 4 Atlantis mainland portion at Elon. On a day when it appeared sluggish against a stout, well-rested opponent, Furman overcame a 13-point second half deficit to capture the win.

The comeback didn't feature any big, quick runs where the Paladins got hot. Instead, they willed themselves back with guts and focus - along with taking care of the ball. Furman committed a season-high 17 turnovers Wednesday, but that total was at 16 with 11:39 left to play.

"Before you can turn things and create momentum, you've got to have energy. We weren't playing with the energy that we needed to. We were trying to figure out lineups and all of a sudden, we went five guards and I thought that was what changed it," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "Today, there was nobody in this building. We just played last night. We had every reason to shut this thing down and say, 'hey you know what? It's not our day,' but our team grew and answered the bell from a leadership perspective."

The Paladins trailed 49-38 with less than 10 minutes to play when a key sequence got them closer. After grabbing just one offensive rebound the entire first half, Furman got two on one possession and the second one turned into a putback by Clay Mounce. After Alex Hunter hit a 3-pointer, Mounce got a tip-in off a miss on the next possession to cut the lead to 49-45 with 7:28 left.

Furman couldn't get any closer over the next five minutes and the Mavericks took a 53-47 lead on Tiandre Jackson-Young's layup with 4:44 left. Little did anyone know then that would be UT-Arlington final field goal of the day. It was one of just two field goals the Mavericks (3-4) had over the final 10:52 of the game.

"(The five-guard lineup) worked on both ends. We were able to force them into some tough shots and that helped us rebound," Richey said. "Once we spread all their pressure out, and put enough shooters and attackers out there, it allowed us to get shots. ... That's typically not what we do, but that's the cool part about this group. We've got some versatility on both ends and today it worked out for us."

Hunter hit a contested 3-pointer to cut the lead to 55-54 with 1:39 left. After Mounce was called for his second straight controversial foul, UT-Arlington's Brian Warren made both free throws. After Bothwell missed a 3-pointer, Mounce got the rebound and was fouled. He hit 1-of-2 free throws to cut the lead to 57-55 with 59 seconds left.

On the Paladins next possession, Hunter's 3-pointer missed. Once again, Mounce grabbed the offensive board and Furman called timeout with 10.8 seconds left.

"That might be the play of the game. You miss that shot and it they board it, then you've got to foul," Richey said. "Instead, Clay gets that huge offensive rebound. It's really a hard play because the defender was inside and that's easy to just go over the back. Clay jumped straight up in the air and grabbed it with two hands. It was really a big-time effort on his part."

Inbounding from under his own basket, Hunter couldn't find anyone close so he fired a long pass into the backcourt that Bothwell retrieved. With the clock running down, Bothwell maneuvered his way to the basket, laid it in with his left hand to tie the game and drew the foul. After a Mavs' timeout, Bothwell coolly nailed the go-ahead free throw. Jackson-Young's 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced away no good and the Paladins erupted in celebration.

"The draw was for Clay or Jordan (Lyons) to come off for three. We had the option, but after that wasn't open Alex threw it long. I know there was only a couple of seconds left. ... I was really driving to see if I could kick to Jordan or Clay, but nobody helped (Bothwell's defender) over," Bothwell said. "I just tried to do what coach preaches every day - two for the finish, got the foul and made it.
"I was in that situation a couple of times in high school and missed the free throw, so that's what I was really nervous about. But I'm glad was able to make that one tonight. That was fun."

After being outrebounded 19-11 in the opening half, the final rebounding total was 33-33. Eight of those 22 second-half rebounds came on the offensive end for the Paladins. Mounce had 14 points, 12 boards and three steals, while Jordan Lyons also scored 14 for Furman. Noah Gurley and Hunter each scored 11.

Bothwell's heroic play came less than 24 hours after the sophomore reserve put up 20 points, six rebounds and five assists.

"He's growing and it's fun to see. A year ago, he was going through adversity and trying to find his way," Richey said. "He committed more this offseason and he's really grown. Coach (Jeremy) Growe's done a phenomenal job with him and now he's playing like a big-time guard."

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