Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Paladins dominate paint, topple Chattanooga

Jalen Slawson had 16 points in Furman's 77-73 win at
Chattanooga Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Furman

After Furman closed out the non-conference schedule with a 66-point win over winless South Carolina State, it was bound to face a much different challenge in Wednesday's Southern Conference opener at undefeated Chattanooga. The Paladins took on this much different challenge in a much different way, but ended up with the same result - a win.

Furman piled up 50 points in the paint to overcome Chattanooga's prolific three-point shooting and held on for a thrilling 77-73 win at the Roundhouse. After setting school records for made 3-pointers (21) and assists (33) last time out, the Paladins were just 4-of-14 from beyond the arc and had only eight assists Wednesday. But that record-breaking showing could've very well loosened some driving lanes as the Mocs closely guarded the perimeter.

While it was the third time this season that Furman scored half a hundred down low, it was the most against a Division I opponent in a regulation game since putting up 52 in a 94-79 win at Samford on Feb. 17, 2018.

"It's a shame there weren't fans here today because that was a heck of a college basketball game," Furman coach Bob Richey said on the Furman Radio Network's postgame show. "They stayed out on our shooters and we just did a great job of attacking the paint all night. I thought we were patient with our offense and let the ball move.

"They took away the three-point line and we still score 77 on the road. I think that's a credit to our guys of just letting the ball get side to side and not trying to take the first (shot). ... Our preparation the last few days gave us the opportunity to come out here and tough one out."

In addition to facing an unbeaten team on the road to begin conference play, Richey said the Paladins discovered a plot twist on the bus ride to the arena. It was then they learned that Chattanooga leading scorer David Jean-Baptiste was back with the team, 18 days after entering the transfer portal.

Jean-Baptiste didn't start, but didn't stay on the bench long after Furman jumped out to a 9-0 lead. Chattanooga (9-1, 0-1) hit a trio of treys to tie the game at 9-9 five minutes in and that was a sign of things to come. The Mocs were 13-of-26 from three for the game, but made just 1-of-7 over the final nine-plus minutes.

Perhaps the biggest key stretch of the game came in the final five minutes. The Paladins faced their biggest deficit at 66-63 when Clay Mounce hit a layup and Richey immediately called for a timeout with exactly five minutes left. Furman reinserted Noah Gurley with four fouls and immediately went to him. Gurley's putback of his own miss gave Furman a 67-66 lead with 4:36 left.

After Jean-Baptiste gave the Mocs the lead back on a jumper, Gurley was called for an offensive foul as he backed his defender down on the post with 3:30 left. Freshman Garrett Hien replaced Gurley in the lineup, but the offense didn't change. Hien converted layups on back-to-back possessions sandwiched in between three Chattanooga missed shots as Furman led 71-68 with less than a minute to play.

"I told them at that last media (timeout), 'your culture is going to win you this game,' and I really believe it did. We were down and Noah had just fouled out, but we had to go and win anyway," Richey said. "Our bench struggled at times during the game and we couldn't figure out who to go with, but Garrett Hien. What a last eight minutes he had. It's fun to see him grow up and have big, pivotal moments in the game."

The Paladins (7-3, 1-0) had 30 points in the paint in the first half, many of which came on Mike Bothwell drives in which he hit the deck. Yet they only had two free throws after Jalen Slawson drew a foul on a putback. Chattanooga's only other foul in the first half was 80 feet from the basket. In the second half, Furman was 13-of-18 from the foul line including 6-of-8 over the final 48 seconds to seal the win. Chattanooga, which was 8-of-9 from the foul line in the first half, didn't shoot a free throw in the second half.

Bothwell had 22 points and seven rebounds to lead the Paladins, who won the rebounding battle 33-26. Jalen Slawson added 16 points, while Gurley had 13. Alex Hunter hit three of those four 3-pointers to score nine points. Hien also scored nine, while Clay Mounce had eight points and nine rebounds. No Furman starter had more than one turnover as that group combined for four.

Jean-Baptiste led Chattanooga matching his per game average for the season of 18 points. K.C. Hankton, a transfer from Saint Louis who was deemed eligible to play two weeks ago, had 17 also for the Mocs.

"That's the third (consecutive) game we've won on the boards, so our team's really embracing that," Richey said. "Mounce might not be one that jumps out on the stat sheet, but he was phenomenal in doing the things we need him to do. He led us in deflections and really crashed the glass today."

Furman next hosts Mercer on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Records rewritten in Furman rout of S.C. State

Furman reserve Colin Kenney had 16 points in the Paladins'
118-52 win over S.C. State Monday. Photo courtesy of Furman

What went around came around for the Furman basketball team Monday afternoon. After allowing 56 first-half points in Saturday's loss at Winthrop, the Paladins scored 56 in the opening half at Timmons Arena. Their second half went even better as Furman rolled to a record-breaking 118-52 win over South Carolina State.

It was the Paladins' highest scoring output against a Division I opponent since a 120-91 win over Saint Peter's in 1974, and the 13th-highest total ever. Furman (6-3) broke the single-game record for assists (33) as all 13 Paladins who suited up had at least one. Furman's 21-of-35 effort on 3-pointers was the most made against a Division I opponent and tied the overall school record. The Paladins also hit 21 against Virginia Intermont in 2004 and North Greenville in 2019.

At a time where Furman was already deep its bench, the Paladins made their final 13 field goals of the game to finish at 70 percent shooting (42-of-60). That just missed the single-game shooting percentage record of 71.4 set in a 49-48 overtime win at James Madison in 1984. For perspective, the Paladins were 20-of-28 in that game, but made 22-of-28 shots in the second half Monday.

The 66-point margin was Furman's second-highest against a Division I opponent. The Paladins defeated The Citadel 154-67 on Jan. 8, 1955.

"I'm proud of our team's energy and spirit today. Their connectivity on both ends of the floor was really good from the start," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "It was evident yesterday in practice that we were eager to get back on the court and show that we could play better. ... We played nine guys double-digit minutes tonight. They all created good energy, which gave us the lead and the margin to be able to do that.

"It hasn't been the easiest week, but we've improved through the adversity which is always good to see as a coach. ... We didn't pack any makes with us to Rock Hill, so I guess we had two games worth loaded up today."

Six different Paladins scored in double figures Monday. It's highly unlikely anyone would've predicted who got there first. Sophomore Colin Kenney, who logged a total of just 20 minutes this season entering Monday, drained three 3-pointers before hitting a jumper with five minutes left in the first half that pushed Furman's lead to 37-22.

"Coach has been experimenting with the depth and I saw my opportunity today to come in and make an impact," Kenney said. "Whether it's offense, defense or whatever, I just try to come in and do the best I can and provide energy. Credit to my teammates for helping me have a good day. ... It was awesome to see all of us go out there and play well.

"It was a great feeling to get back in the 'W' column before we head home for a little break. ... This gives us some good momentum to head into conference play right."

Kenney, whose previous career-high was six points in last season's win at Elon, finished with 16 points, three assists and no turnovers in 22 minutes. He led a total of six Paladins who posted new career-high scoring totals as the bench combined for 60 points. Also setting new high-scoring marks were Jonny Lawrence (15), Ben Beeker (9), Joe Anderson (6) and walk-ons Robert Swanson (7) and Rett Lister (3).

With top perimeter shooter Jaylon Pugh sidelined for 3-4 weeks with a broken finger, Kenney's reserve role could be expanding. However, Richey said Monday's opportunity didn't come about simply due to an injury.

"The door has been open for all of them. ... They always have the opportunity to show us how bad they want to go out there and be their best. That's what it comes down to. At the end of the day, I'm looking for guys who want to be their best," Richey said. "Colin really hasn't had a sign of hope (of playing) in some ways, but every single day he's been in the gym with his position coach in the film room.

"As a coach as you see that over time, you want to find ways to give them an opportunity. We gave him a few minutes at Rock Hill and he played really hard. We decided today to give him a shot early and he was ready to go. I couldn't be more proud of his energy and spirit, and of the work he's put in for weeks and weeks and weeks. He did all that to be ready for today. ... That's a great life lesson."

Lawrence, a 6-foot-10 freshman, led Furman's 3-point barrage by hitting 5-of-6.

"Jonny's a great shooter. He's got size and he's been getting stronger," Richey said. "It was a lot of fun to see him go out and play the way he did."

While no Paladin logged more than 22 minutes, the starters did their thing too. Noah Gurley led Furman with 19 points, while Clay Mounce had 14 - and no fouls. Mike Bothwell had 13 points and six assists, while Alex Hunter had 12 points.

Any victory would've helped Furman wipe the bad taste from its mouth following last week's heartbreaking loss at Alabama and getting thumped at Winthrop. The way Monday's game unfolded was an especially satisfying - and important - way to head into Christmas break.

After rolling over a winless S.C. State team to wrap up non-conference play, Furman opens the Southern Conference portion of its schedule at unbeaten Chattanooga on Dec. 30.

"Let's go have a break, because we need it. These guys haven't had a real day off since Charleston (Dec. 5), because they've been on buses all day on these road trips. It was a brutal stretch, but I think we've learned a lot and become closer," Richey said. "We have a really clear picture of who we are and where we've got to go. That's going to give us a really good four days of prep when we return on Dec. 26.

"When you get to conference play, the ante goes up a little bit and you can't size one up over another. Our league is great with quality all over it. It's going to be a challenge night in and night out, but it's one we're excited about it."

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Big first half helps Winthrop roll past Paladins

Freshman Marcus Foster had nine points and three steals off the bench
in Furman's 87-71 loss at Winthrop. Photo courtesy of Furman

ROCK HILL - Over Furman's past few record-breaking seasons, it's not been unusual to look at the scoreboard and see an opponent with about 50 points and around five minutes left on the clock. It's just usually in the second half.

In a battle of top five Mid Major teams on Saturday, it took Winthrop just 15:03 to reach half a hundred against the third-ranked Paladins. After a dominant opening half, the fifth-ranked Eagles rolled to an 87-71 win over third-ranked Furman.

The Paladins had 26 fouls, 23 turnovers and 21 field goals - out of 55 attempts (38.2 percent). It's Furman's highest turnover amount since committing 23 against Louisiana-Monroe on March 15, 2016. It's the second-highest total of fouls in any game over the last four seasons. Furman was called for 27 at Auburn last season.

After the Paladins' devastating three-point loss at Alabama on Tuesday, it has to be wondered if Saturday's opening half performance was a hangover. Furman outperformed the Crimson Tide in nearly all phases, but a negative-21 rebounding margin proved too much to overcome.

"I'd hate for that loss to be an excuse today, but it definitely looked like it. The funny thing is, we did outrebound (Winthrop). So we fixed that, but you've got to go play good offense and go play good defense," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "And then you've got to finish possessions. ... I didn't anticipate us coming in here and coughing it up 23 times. That's uncharacteristic of us.

"They (Winthrop) brought a ton of energy today. They defended extremely well and played very aggressively offensively. We didn't answer the bell."

In the opening 100 seconds Saturday, Furman's Noah Gurley had a turnover, a 3-pointer and two fouls. While the turnover and foul were a sign of things to come for Furman, the three was not. After Gurley hit the Paladins' first attempt, they hit just one of their next 16 tries.

While Gurley sat for 10 minutes after that second foul, freshman Garrett Hien came in an performed admirably. Hien's jumper cut the Winthrop lead to 18-14 with 12:36 left in the first half. A pair of Jalen Slawson free throws cut the Eagles' lead to 27-20 with 9:55 left.

Over the next 4:58, Winthrop went on a 23-9 run and took a 56-36 lead into halftime. The Eagles shot 65.5 percent from the floor in the first half.

It was eerily similar to the Furman-Winthrop game at Timmons Arena three years ago. That was the last time the Paladins had trailed by at least 20 in the first half as Winthrop led 52-32 at the break that day before going on to a 93-74 win. The 56 points allowed was the most given up in a half by Furman since The Citadel scored 60 in the second half on Feb. 2, 2013.

"I thought we played hard in the second half, but you just can't have a first half like that," Richey said. "I'm hopeful this was just a bad day for us. We need to close out well Monday, then we all need a break."

Any hopes of a miraculous comeback were hampered by Furman making just 9-of-17 free throws in the second half. The Paladins had a chance to cut the lead to 10 with four-and-a-half minutes left, but Mike Bothwell's tough shot on a drive was blocked. The Eagles (5-0) soared down the court and Charles Falden converted a three-point play seven seconds later to push the lead to 78-63. Falden had 18 points to lead a balanced attack as seven Winthrop players scored at least seven points apiece.

Bothwell had 16 points and eight rebounds to lead Furman (5-3), while Gurley had 14 points and seven rebounds before fouling out. Alex Hunter and Hien each scored 12 points. For the second consecutive game, Clay Mounce fouled out with more than eight minutes left although Saturday's whistles seemed more authentic than Tuesday's. After scoring 21 points in 16 minutes Tuesday, Mounce was held scoreless in 16 minutes Saturday.

"People are just watching the film and saying 'drive on them.' If we're going to continue to swipe at the ball and foul with our hands and have poor verticality plays, we're going to be in foul trouble," Richey said. "We've got be able to figure this thing out and we will. We've had four of five on the road. I think there's an element of fatigue, but that's no excuse.

"If we want to be what we want to be, when we step on the court, we've got to play to a standard. We didn't today."

Furman was missing a key member of its reserve rotation after Jaylon Pugh had surgery this week on a broken finger suffered at Alabama. The junior is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. Along with Hien, fellow freshman Marcus Foster stepped up off the bench Saturday. He had nine points, four rebounds and three steals in 14 minutes off the bench, although he also found foul trouble with four.

"Marcus played with a ton of confidence. ... I wish he wouldn't have had the preseason injury, but you can't control that. He's having to catch up on the fly a little bit," Richey said. "As our depth gets to playing more and starts to figure things out, they're going to be better and better."

Furman next hosts South Carolina State at 4 p.m. Monday.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Paladins suffer another gut punch on SEC floor

Noah Gurley had 15 points at Alabama Tuesday,
but Furman fell 83-80. Photo courtesy of Furman

While the Furman men's basketball team was playing at Alabama late Tuesday night, the venerable voice of the Paladins, Dan Scott, and Tom Van Hoy were back home in Greenville broadcasting on the radio via a satellite video feed. While the SEC is not allowing road team's radio crews inside the arena this season due to COVID-19 concerns, it evidently has no qualms about it's referees working the games without any semblance of a mask.

Tuesday's crew probably should've worn masks that cover the entire head just for incognito purposes. For the second year in a row and third time in four seasons, Furman got a dose of SEC home cooking that left it with sour belches on the bus ride home. Alabama rallied from an 11-point second half deficit to post an 83-80 win. The Crimson Tide's rally was powered by a 49-28 rebounding advantage.

"We played great in every single area except (rebounding). Unfortunately, that got us tonight and it's going to get us on the big stage until we can figure it out," Furman coach Bob Richey said on the Furman Radio Network postgame show. "Unfortunately, I thought it was a lack of us being physical on our box outs and just finding bodies. Once we figure that out, we have a chance to be really, really good."

Alabama (4-2) figured out a way to be physical enough to collect 21 offensive boards, yet not have a single player with more than two fouls until there were 27 seconds left in the game. That was, umm, not quite the case for the Paladins (5-2).

Three years ago, Devin Sibley scored 19 points in the second half of a five-point loss at Tennessee. He could've had even more if not for two controversial offensive fouls, the second of which sent him to the bench with four fouls and more than 13 minutes left in the game. Last season, starter Jalen Slawson saw all of eight minutes on the court before fouling out in a three-point loss at Auburn.

While Furman had three players get called for at least four fouls Tuesday, nobody felt the wrath of the whistle quite like senior Clay Mounce. Mounce managed to score 21 points in 16 minutes before fouling out with 8:12 left. It's the fourth time Mounce has fouled out of a game in the past two seasons. In each of the other three, he logged at least 31 minutes.

The timing of Mounce's fouls Tuesday were especially curious. After Mounce's 3-pointer with 2:15 left in the first half gave Furman a 47-32 lead, he was called for an offensive foul - his third - 19 seconds later. The Crimson Tide scored the final five points of the half to cut the lead to 10 at the break.

In the second half, Mounce's layup with 17:36 left pushed Furman's lead to 54-45. He was called for his fourth foul 13 seconds later. Saddled with the four fouls, Mounce subbed out and in a couple of times after that. The last time he came in was with 8:51 left and Furman leading 66-61. Thirty seconds later, Mounce converted a four-point play to make it 70-61. Nine seconds later, he fouled out.

Alabama outscored the Paladins 22-10 the rest of the way.

"What that call and how they call it - none of that is in our control. You've just got to be able to deal with different adversity," Richey said. "I thought Clay deserved the right to play and I stuck with him.

"Unfortunately Clay picked up that offensive foul right before half and got his third. That was a tough break because I thought Clay really showed up to play tonight, was leading and played a phenomenal game."

In addition to the foul disparity, seemingly every loose ball out of bounds went to Alabama. The most egregious example coming with 10:38 left and Furman leading 63-54 when replay showed that the Tide's John Petty Jr. threw the ball out of bounds with no Paladin coming close to touching it. It inexplicably went back to Alabama, which scored on the possession.

Tuesday's loss was especially gut-wrenching for Furman given how the night began. After a dreadfully slow start on both ends hampered the Paladins in a five-point loss at Cincinnati, Furman came roaring out of the gate at Alabama. Mounce's 3-pointer with 8:21 left in the first half gave the Paladins their biggest lead at 32-16.

"You go score 80 points on an SEC floor - that's good enough to win," Richey said. "I was proud of our start and our mentality. We exhibited a lot of confidence when we got on the court, but you've got to sustain it.

"These SEC teams with that length and size are going to try to ramp up that pressure and start sending guys to the glass. ... It was a slow drip. They just kept playing volleyball at the backboard. But this team has a chance to be great. I think we will learn a lot from this."

Mike Bothwell led Furman with 23 points, six rebounds and two steals. In addition to Mounce's 21, Noah Gurley was the other Paladin in double figures with 15 points.

Next up for Furman is a showdown at Winthrop Saturday at 4 p.m. The Paladins are ranked third in the latest Mid-Major poll, while the Eagles are ranked fifth.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Mounce hits milestone, leads Paladins to win

Clay Mounce scored 21 points, including the 1,000th of his Furman
career, as the Paladins defeated Flagler, 86-61, Saturday.

Furman's Clay Mounce reached a scoring milestone 11 seconds into Saturday's game and didn't stop scoring until halftime. The senior, who had 18 points in the second half Wednesday at Cincinnati, had 18 in the first half Saturday to help the Paladins roll over Flagler, 86-61.

After gaining control of the opening tip, Furman's Mike Bothwell fired to Mounce for a layup to open the scoring giving him 1,000 points in his career. Furman coach Bob Richey said that play was by design. Having Mounce's old friend and teammate Jordan Lyons in attendance Saturday made the moment all the more special.

"We ran that play to get Clay that bucket and get that out of the way. I was proud of Clay's performance. In the first half, he really carried over from what he did in the second half at Cincinnati," Richey said. "He played a complete game, had some great offensive rebounds and cuts.

"Jordan texted me yesterday and said he wanted to come see the game and be there for Clay's 1,000th point. It was great to see him and have him in the locker room after the game. It's always great to have family back."

Mounce finished with a game-high 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting and grabbed a game-high eight rebounds. Noah Gurley finished with 17 points, two blocks and two steals, while Alex Hunter had 10 points, six rebounds, five assists, three steals and no turnovers. Jaylon Pugh added a career-high 15 points in 14 minutes off the bench, as he drained 5-of-6 3-pointers.

"We were just trying to move the ball and it just happened to find my way. We run an equal opportunity offense and sometimes it finds you and it happened to be me in the first half," Mounce said. "Jaylon's in here every morning shooting and putting the work in. No one in this program is surprised by that game for him."

Mounce's big first half helped Furman take a 50-25 lead into the break. That lead helped the Paladins (5-1) overcome a second half that was sloppy at times, especially early on.

After five turnovers in the first half, Furman committed five in the first four minutes of the second half. That helped the Division II Saints go on an 8-3 run and pushed Richey to bench all five starters before the first media timeout.

"We just weren't playing defense to our standard there for a little stint," Mounce said. "That second group came in and gave us good minutes and Coach Richey got after us a little bit."

Order was somewhat restored once the starters checked back in five minutes later, but Flagler didn't go away. The Saints, who had a seven-point loss to Florida International and a 19-win over Central Michigan so far this season, cut the lead to 13 with 5:21 to play. Mounce answered with a 3-pointer 21 seconds later to start a game-ending 15-3 run.

"I'm proud of our guys, especially in the first half. We came out with a great defensive focus. ... We got to play a lot of our depth early, which was great," Richey said. "I wasn't real happy with the intensity of our defense coming out in the second half. ... We finished the game well. The last six minutes we got back to playing like we did in the first half."

After a disappointing loss at Cincinnati on Wednesday, Furman gets another shot to compete in a big-time arena Tuesday at Alabama at 9 p.m.

"Alabama's a really good team and (Coach) Nate (Oats) does a great job. It's an opportunity to play in an SEC venue on the SEC Network and see what we can do," Richey said. "The most critical thing is that we go try to be us ... bring an aggression to the game and not be timid. And understanding that the only way you have a chance to win is to go play defense at the highest level possible."

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Paladins' rally falls short at Cincinnati

Clay Mounce scored 23 points, including 18 in the second half, but Furman
fell to Cincinnati 78-73 Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Furman

As the road schedule began and the competition level increased, Furman knew it could not afford some of the slow starts it had overcome early on this men's basketball season. In their first road test on Saturday, the Paladins came out blazing and thumped College of Charleston. Wednesday's effort at Cincinnati was the furthest thing from a hot start.

A Furman team that had trailed opponents for a combined 105 seconds this season, trailed from start to finish in a 78-73 loss to the Bearcats. The Paladins (4-1) fell behind 7-0 a little more than four minutes in Wednesday. They trailed 13-6 at the 12-minute mark and 40-28 at the half. Furman was down by as many as 14 in the second half before it began to rally.

The Paladins got the lead down to three on three different occasions and down to two twice after halftime. It was 73-70 with 38 seconds left when Jalen Slawson couldn't get an open 3-pointer to fall. A Clay Mounce three cut the Bearcats' lead to 75-73 with 13 seconds left, but Cincinnati's Mika Adams-Woods hit a pair of free throws to push the lead back to four. Furman missed a pair of wild prayers from three in the final seconds as the Bearcats (2-1) held on.

On a night when Furman shot 39.7 percent, allowed Cincinnati to shoot 56.3 percent, and was outrebounded 33-23, it still had a chance to defeat the reigning American Athletic Conference champions. On the Furman Radio Network postgame show, Paladins' coach Bob Richey had no interest in sunshine pumping though.

"I'm tired of being close. Tired of coming to this point and 'aww, we played 'em close.' We've got to get past that," Richey said. "We didn't come out with the fight and tenacity (we need), especially on defense. We looked timid.

"I know our potential. I don't quite understand how we can come out here with this much potential and play like that in the first half. I take full responsibility for it. ... I've got to coach better and figure this thing out."

Richey must have felt fortunate that his team "only" trailed by 12 at the break based on the first half boxscore. Furman had just five rebounds in the first 20 minutes, while the Bearcats had 14. One big reason why the Paladins didn't have more was the fact that Cincinnati shot 65.2 percent from the floor in the first half, including 12-of-15 on shots inside the arc.

It just seemed that there was a lack of aggression on both ends of the floor for Furman. Entering Wednesday, the Paladins averaged 21 free throw attempts per game. While they ended up going 20-for-27 at the foul line, they didn't attempt one until there was 5:33 left in the first half.

"You don't have to play perfect, but you've got to play really hard and do it for 40 minutes," Richey said. "Tonight, we leave here extremely disappointed in ourselves. That effort in the first half just has to be much better."

Furman trailed 47-33 with 17 minutes left when Noah Gurley hit Mounce on a nice feed for a layup. That started a 10-0 run that Mounce capped with a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 47-43 with 13:58 left. The Paladins rebounded better and protected the ball, with just one turnover in the second half, but could never get even. Every time they got close, the Bearcats' Keith Williams seemingly came up with a big shot and finished with a game-high 27 points.

Mounce led Furman with 23 points, including 18 in the second half. Gurley had 20 points and eight rebounds in 29 minutes as foul trouble cost he and Slawson some time. Mike Bothwell had 14 points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals also for the Paladins, who were outscored in bench points 21-2.

"We just played harder (in the second half). There wasn't a whole lot of scheming at halftime. It was mental and heart. ... I was proud of how we played in the second half, but that's just not good enough," Richey said. "When you're trying to go on the road and beat a team like this, you've got to play the game with a certain level of confidence and conviction to win those possessions. I just didn't see it in the first half.

"We will grow from this, but it's like I just told the team, 'I'm tired of saying that.' This whole idea that you either win or you learn, that's nonsense. You only learn if you take responsibility and you say 'something's got to change.' "

Furman is scheduled to host Flagler on Saturday at 2 p.m. before going back on the road at Alabama Tuesday at 9 p.m.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Red-hot Paladins wallop College of Charleston

Jalen Slawson had 16 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and three blocks in Furman's
81-57 win over College of Charleston Saturday. Photo courtesy of Furman

What slow starts?

While Furman entered its hastily scheduled game at College of Charleston Saturday with a 3-0 record and an average winning margin of 34 points per game, everything wasn't perfect. The Paladins had overcome some sluggish starts, below average perimeter shooting and a few too many turnovers. In its first road test this season, those problems were fixed in a big way.

Mike Bothwell scored 26 points and Jalen Slawson just missed Furman's first ever triple-double as the Paladins crushed the Cougars, 81-57. Furman shot 51.7 percent from the floor, including 47.1 (16-of-34) on 3-pointers. It limited Charleston to 36.5 percent shooting, including 5-of-23 (21.7 percent) 3-pointers.

"I just thought we played complete. It started with our defense. We did a really good job of sticking with the game plan," Furman coach Bob Richey said on the Furman Radio Network's postgame show. "Offensively, we just played clean. The ball moved and we didn't turn it over or try to do too much.

"We shot the ball incredibly especially in the first half, but we earned that right in terms of how we played, moved it and defended. ... I know we've had some people wondering how good a shooting team we are, but I think they found out today that we've got some guys that can shoot it."

Another thing that quickly changed for Furman was Noah Gurley's stroke. The all-Southern Conference junior was averaging just more than nine points per game this season and was one of 1-of-9 on 3-pointers, but came out firing. The Paladins, who had seven points over the first eight minutes last time out against Southern Wesleyan, took a 12-6 lead just 3:28 into Saturday's game on Gurley's second three-pointer.

Gurley had eight of those first 12 points, along with a block and a steal in that stretch. By the halfway point of the first half, Slawson had six assists and Furman led 28-10. The Cougars (1-2) had the lead down to 14 before the Paladins ended the half on a 12-2 run to take a 47-23 lead into halftime.

Furman had just two turnovers, while forcing nine, in the first half and enjoyed a 22-2 edge in points off those. Bothwell had 17 points in the first half and has reached double figures by halftime in every game this season. Slawson had nine points, eight rebounds and seven assists in the first half.

The Paladins didn't let up in the second half. They outscored Charleston 16-6 over the first eight minutes after halftime to take their biggest lead at 63-29.

"I thought those four minutes after halftime were going to be critical," Richey said. "If they were going to come out in their house and make a run, it was going to be at that point. We had to be ready to go and fortunately, we were."

Gurley made 4-of-8 shots from beyond the arc and finished with 18 points, three blocked shots and two steals. Slawson was one point shy of his career-high scoring day with 16 points. The Summerville native matched his career-highs in rebounds (10) and blocks (3) and set a new career mark in assists with nine. 

"I left him in there trying to get him that triple-double. It kind of messed up our offense, but it's hard to get those. For him to be able to come home, we gave it a try," Richey said. "He played magnificent. ... Rebounding-wise, he's starting to become a guy that we feel like can go get 10 a game. If he can rebound like that and play with the assists in the offense he's creating out of the five-spot, it makes him a really unique player."

The game was finalized just 48 hours earlier after Furman's scheduled game Saturday at No. 19 Richmond was postponed due to COVID concerns within the Spiders' program. Earlier this week, those concerns also wiped out Charleston's scheduled game against Richmond.

Richey has pushed for schools that have had schedules altered this season to look to play each other if at all possible. After receiving word that Richmond was shutting down basketball operations for a few days, Richey and his staff immediately began working to find a possible replacement. Each of his assistants were assigned to develop a scouting report for potential opponents this weekend, including Richmond, Charleston and a Stanford team that can't return home for a few days after playing in the Maui Invitational in Asheville.

Richey said the last thing the team wanted this weekend was to be sitting at home with no game at all. So he was thrilled to reach an agreement with Charleston and that feeling seemed to permeate throughout the team. Furman is scheduled to play at Cincinnati Wednesday at 5 p.m.

"We had a really good practice yesterday and we wanted a challenge. To get to play in a beautiful arena against a great mid-major program, that's what we do this for. You want to go play in big games," Richey said. "I told the team this morning that in this climate and world right now, the team that's the most excited to play is going to have a big advantage.

"Having joy in the journey along with all this, without letting it be negative is key. Do your job, be responsible, hopefully continue to test right and let's be excited to practice and play."

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Bothwell helps Furman shake pesky Warriors

Mike Bothwell had 17 points, six rebounds and four steals in Furman's
89-49 win over Southern Wesleyan. Photo courtesy of Furman

The greatest strength of the Furman men's basketball team is arguably the numerous ways it can succeed. Any of the five starters have the proven ability to lead the team in scoring on any given night, but even teams like that can use that one player that they can always lean on for a score.

We're only three games into this season and the Paladins' level of competition will undoubtedly ramp up, but it appears that player has been identified. Junior Mike Bothwell had 17 points, six rebounds and four steals in Furman's 89-49 win over Southern Wesleyan Wednesday at Timmons Arena.

"Mike's a special player and person. ... He's not afraid of those moments where he knows somebody needs to kind of step up. He showed that last year against UT-Arlington, Wofford and what could've been at Auburn if we'd gotten the last stop," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "He's ready to take on that moment as one of our leaders. He just finds buckets and we're going to depend on him for a lot this year.

"People can say, 'that's just Southern Wesleyan,' but that's a really good team that won its league last year. For us to be able to put together a 40-point win against that team, that's a really good win. Are we a finished product? Not even close, but it's another game where we know there's still a lot to improve on but we're making strides in areas where we need to."

For the second consecutive Furman game, it was a sluggish start for both teams as the Paladins led 7-6 at the 12-minute mark of the first half. The Division II Warriors showed why they won 20 games last season and have a 10-point win over USC Upstate in their only game this season as they took a 19-17 lead with 7:57 left. The only other time Furman has trailed this year was 2-0 to Tusculum in last week's season opener.

Southern Wesleyan cut the lead to 24-23 with 4:33 left when it appeared that Bothwell had simply had enough. He got the ball on the low block with his back to the basket when he suddenly turned and flipped the ball off the glass and in the basket. That started a 13-3 run over the last 4:18 of the half. Bothwell accounted for nine of those points giving him 11 in the first half. He's reached double figures in scoring by halftime of every game this season.

"We watched last year's film of the Southern Wesleyan game and they had a similar kind of first half run. I just wanted to kind of spark the team, really defensively. Getting stops is how we get going," Bothwell said. "We locked in a little bit more and got tighter on defense, got rebounds and pushed it. That led to easier shots than we were getting."

After halftime, that 13-3 run became a 21-3 run as Furman scored the first eight points over four minutes. Clay Mounce led a balanced attack that helped the Paladins pull away. Mounce had six points, five assists, three rebounds, a block and a steal in 11 minutes of time in the second half. He finished with 11 points, six rebounds and six assists. Jalen Slawson had 13 points and matched his career-high with 10 rebounds.

Noah Gurley had 11 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Alex Hunter added eight points. Off the bench, Marcus Foster had nine points and five rebounds (four offensive) in 13 minutes. Furman's 55 rebounds were the most in a game since grabbing 57 against Bluefield on Dec. 16, 2015.

With a successful three-game season opening homestand complete, the Paladins turn their attention to No. 19 Richmond - maybe. The Spiders, who have a win over Kentucky under their belt this season, paused basketball activity Tuesday because of a positive COVID test. Richmond's scheduled game against College of Charleston on Wednesday was cancelled as a result.

"We don't know what's going to happen Saturday, but hopefully we're going to be able to play Richmond. Hopefully we will find out around noon (Thursday)," Richey said. "We're just going to control what's in front of us and we're going to focus on us tomorrow. There's plenty to clean up.

"We're talking to a few teams right now in terms of a backup. We've offered it to some people that have openings, but haven't gotten a commitment. If Richmond has to be postponed, we're working really hard to find a replacement for Saturday or Sunday. ... We need to go play somebody, to be honest with you, that maybe on paper is 'superior to us.' Let's go see how we stack up. Our program is ready for that and excited about that."