|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."