|Mike Bothwell scored a career-high 27 points in Furman's
73-66 win at Chattanooga. Photo courtesy of Furman
Furman (15-3, 4-0) and Western Carolina (11-3, 3-0), the only two SoCon teams who have had the same starting lineup every game this season, are the only two teams without a league loss. While that consistency has certainly paid off for the Paladins, the bench was the difference on Wednesday.
"What makes us good is you game plan for (Jordan) Lyons, you game plan for (Noah) Gurley, you game plan for (Clay) Mounce, and then Bothwell drops 27," Furman coach Bob Richey said on the Furman Radio Network's postgame show. "He's a scorer. That's what he does and he's a really good player.
"Our bench was huge tonight. Tre (Clark) was phenomenal. ... Defensively, Tre was a nightmare and he had four assists and no turnovers. We only had seven turnovers tonight, which was probably our saving grace."
The win is Furman's sixth on the road this season. Among Division I teams, only William and Mary (seven) has more. It took overcoming some mind-boggling shooting numbers by Chattanooga (10-6, 1-2) to get there.
The Mocs shot 72.7 percent (16-of-22) from the floor in the first half. They also had a 16-9 rebounding advantage and were only whistled for one foul in the first 20 minutes. Despite all of this, Chattanooga only led 38-36 at the break.
In the second half, it appeared to be more of the same. When Matt Ryan, a transfer from Notre Dame and Vanderbilt, hit a jumper with 14:38 left, the Mocs had made six of their first nine shots of the second half. Still though, they only led 50-47.
After Chattanooga made 22-of-31 field goals over the first 25-plus minutes, you had to wonder if the odds would ever begin to balance out. All of a sudden, they did. Over the next 8:57 of the game, the Mocs went 0-for-10 from the floor and committed five turnovers. Meanwhile, Bothwell had eight of Furman's 14 points during that span. His layup with 5:59 left capped the 14-0 run and gave the Paladins a 61-50 lead.
"It wasn't a great (first) half of basketball for us, but it was a championship response," Richey said. "When an opponent shoots 73 percent in the first half and shoots 38 percent the next half, that's a team making a decision that they've got to play more connected and with more intensity."
After the first double-digit lead of the night for either team, Chattanooga quickly got up off the deck. The Mocs went on a 7-0 run over the next two minutes. That marked the first of four times that Chattanooga cut the lead to four the rest of the way. Bothwell had the next points of the game after all four of those.
The biggest of those sequences was the final one. The Mocs trailed 68-64 when Ryan missed a 3-pointer with 1:25 left. Alex Hunter soared up for a huge rebound and Furman ran most of the shot clock off before Bothwell hit a layup. Clay Mounce then had a steal and a dunk with 36 seconds left to seal the win.
"My teammates really just found me late when I was really getting going," Bothwell. "I feel like we were good offensively all game, we just had to turn up the defense. Once we did that, that's why we were able to get a lead and build on it."
Bothwell hit 12-of-16 shots with two steals and no turnovers in his 27 minutes off the bench, and scored 17 points in the second half. Lyons finished with 16 points, while Hunter and Mounce each scored 11. Mounce also had six rebounds, three assists, three blocks and a steal.
Chattanooga leading scorer David Jean-Baptiste had 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting. Ryan had 13 points and four turnovers. Reserve Stefan Kenic led the Mocs with 15 points in 18 minutes.