Friday, January 17, 2020

On big stage, Wofford rolls over Paladins

Mike Bothwell had 13 points in Furman's 66-52 loss
at Wofford Friday night. Photo courtesy of Furman
SPARTANBURG - Friday marked a rare chance for the Southern Conference to showcase two of its elite men's basketball programs in front of a national audience as Wofford hosted Furman on ESPNU. It was a meeting of the two winningest teams in the state over the past five-plus years as the Terriers had 121 wins since the start of the 2014-15 season entering Friday, while the Paladins had 116.

But when the lights turned on Friday, Furman appeared nowhere ready for prime time. The Paladins fell behind 12-0 nearly six minutes into the game and never trailed by less than seven as Wofford cruised to a 66-52 win before a sellout crowd of 3,400 at Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium.

"We weren't playing defense at the level we needed to, and they were. Their intensity and their energy was way better than ours. They were getting good looks and we weren't," Furman coach Bob Richey said about the start. "Their plan was to really just send five guys at all our drivers, really flow hard to the ball and flow early. Instead of us just seeing that and making the necessary adjustments, we almost just kind of fed into it.
"The 12-0 run, that happens. ... You can recover from that if you play differently, and unfortunately tonight we didn't."

Two nights after Western Carolina big man Carlos Dotson had 19 points in the second half against Furman, Wofford big man Chevez Goodwin had 10 of the Terriers' first 12 points Friday. The Paladins (15-5, 5-2) finally got on the board when Mike Bothwell hit a 3-pointer with 14:01 left in the first half.

When Clay Mounce hit a 3-pointer with 10:13 left, it cut the Terriers' lead to 17-10. Over the next three minutes, Wofford (12-7, 4-2) went 0-for-4 from the field and had two turnovers. The score at the end of that stretch was ... still 17-10. The Terriers made Furman pay for not taking advantage of its biggest chance to get back in it. Wofford hit three consecutive 3-pointers and the rout was on at 26-10.

When Wofford took a 32-18 lead into the break, it marked the Paladins most futile half of offense since scoring 18 in the first half of a 62-49 loss to Navy on Dec. 22, 2015.

"The key stretch was when it got to 17-10 and we started getting stops, our offense was awful," Richey said. "I thought we played selfish offensively. We didn't have a mentality to go create shots for others. ... I thought they really cost us."

The Terriers stretched the lead to 17 early in the second half before Furman tried to claw back in it. The Paladins cut the lead to 10 twice - with 13:45 left and with 12:04 left, but missed shots on their next possession each time. Furman finally got the lead back down to single digits when Bothwell hit a 3-pointer with 7:06 left to make it 49-41.

Once again, Furman's defense failed inside. After Wofford missed a three on its ensuing possession, Goodwin scored on a putback. Eleven seconds later, Goodwin got a steal that led to a Nathan Hoover 3-pointer and less than a minute after Bothwell's three it was back to a 13-point lead for Wofford. After a pair of missed layups by the Paladins, Trevor Stumpe hit a 3-pointer and while there was still 5:39 left, it sure felt like "game over" as the Terriers led 57-41.

"It's the same thing as last weekend (in the loss to UNCG). You're not going to come back just because your offense wakes up and then you're not going to go guard," Richey said. "You've got to make sure that you're really good in transition defense because they're really good in transition offense."

Noah Gurley was 7-of-9 from the floor and had 15 points to lead Furman, but also suffered four turnovers. Bothwell finished with 13 also for the Paladins. Leading scorer Jordan Lyons finished with five points on 0-of-8 shooting from the floor, and also had four turnovers. It's the second time in his stellar career that Lyons was held without a made field goal (when attempting at least six shots).

Goodwin finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and no turnovers for Wofford, while Hoover had 17 points and no turnovers. Stumpe scored 11, while Storm Murphy posted eight points, six assists and five rebounds. Wofford shot 49.1 percent from the floor for the game and hit 8-of-22 from three (36.4 percent).

"Deflection numbers continue to go down for us. We had 16 tonight and five in the first half. We're talking defense, but we're not doing defense. That's just the bottom line," Richey said. "We weren't the harder playing team tonight. We weren't the aggressive team on either side of the ball. We definitely weren't the connected team and that's how we've won.
"This is three games in a row where our defense isn't where it needs to be. At the end of the day, that's not on them, that's on me. I've got to go get that fixed."

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