Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Mounce, Bothwell help Paladins whip Elon

Mike Bothwell had career-highs in points (20), rebounds (6) and assists
(5) in Furman's 97-61 win at Elon Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Furman
ELON, N.C. - What a difference a week makes.

Furman shot 52.9 percent from the floor, and hit 17-of-37 3-pointers (45.9 percent), in a 97-61 rout of Elon Tuesday night in the Battle 4 Atlantis mainland tournament. While the Paladins had 19 assists and 10 turnovers, the Phoenix had 10 assists and 19 turnovers.

The performance comes seven days after one of Furman's poorest shooting nights in recent memory in an 81-73 loss at Alabama. Coach Bob Richey said the difference wasn't so much in the shooting as it was in the defense. The Paladins (6-1) held Elon to 35.3 percent shooting, including 5-of-24 on 3s (20.8 percent). It also came six days after the Phoenix (2-5) took a nine-point first half lead at North Carolina before falling, 75-61.

"The storyline (at Alabama) was that we didn't make shots, but that wasn't why we lost the game. The reason we lost the game was because our defensive transition slipped and our ball-screen defense slipped and they were able to get easy baskets late," Richey said. "Tonight, we made sure the gameplan got to the court defensively. ... Then we just played free offensively off instinct.
"I'm proud of our guys. I could go down the line, but Mike Bothwell - what a performance. He just continues to play phenomenal on both ends. Clay Mounce was exceptional as well. Those two really stood out."

Furman held a single-digit lead for much of the first half before Bothwell took over. The Paladins led 28-22 with less than seven minutes left in the half when Bothwell hit a 3-pointer that started an 18-6 run. Bothwell had 13 of those points, while backcourt mate Alex Hunter had the other five.

"We felt like our defense could fuel our offense. We didn't even really want to call too many plays tonight," said Bothwell, who finished with career highs in points (20), rebounds (6) and assists (5) in 25 minutes off the bench. "We just wanted to get stops and get in transition. I think that's why we got so many 3s and good looks."

After taking a 46-30 lead into halftime, the Paladins opened the second on a 13-2 run to put nails in the coffin. Mounce, who was playing about 90 minutes from his old Mount Airy High School, had three 3-pointers in that run and finished with 20 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a career-high five steals.

Hunter and Jordan Lyons were the other Paladins in double figures with 13 points and three assists apiece. A total of five Furman players had at least three assists, including Tre Clark, who also had eight points and six rebounds off the bench.

"I had a good amount of family and friends here, so that was nice," Mounce said of his night. "Coach really wanted us to pressure them early and we did a good job of that."

The one thing that saved further embarrassment for Furman's former Southern Conference foe was Elon's advantage at the foul line. The Phoenix made more free throws than field goals as they hit 20-of-24, while Furman was 8-of-9.

Marcus Sheffield, Elon's leading scorer at 18.7 points per game entering Tuesday, was held to two points on 1-of-7 shooting.

"I told the team, 'he's the best guard we've played against so far,' and we probably devoted more of our defense to him than what we've done to any guard this year," Richey said. "Obviously, that bothered him. Players always hate when you commit two players to (guarding) them, but we felt like we had to do a really good job on him and fortunately we did."

There's not much time to celebrate the blowout win for Furman. As part of the tournament, the Paladins will take on UT-Arlington at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Elon. UT-Arlington (3-3), which has three losses to solid programs including a six-point loss to Gonzaga, will have the advantage of having not played since Sunday.

Richey is using the experience as a little preview of the future.

"This is kind of like a life principle of 'don't worry about stuff you can't control,' " Richey said of facing a rested team. "This is an opportunity for us to try this kind of like the SoCon Tournament - regardless of the opponent. In our minds, today was a quarterfinal feel and tomorrow's a semifinal feel. Let's just treat it like that. We're going to have to do this to win the league."

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