Monday, November 15, 2021

Defense lifted Paladins over Louisville

Mike Bothwell scored 30 points in Furman's 80-72 overtime
win at Louisville Friday. Photo courtesy of Furman

After the Furman men's basketball team posted school records for 3-pointers (22) and assists (34) in its 2021-22 season opener on Tuesday, some might have thought it would take a similar performance to knock off Louisville Friday night.

It did not. Quite simply, the better team won.

Furman overcame a stretch of more than nine-and-a-half game minutes with just one field goal. The Paladins overcame a significant height advantage for the Cardinals, outrebounding Louisville 43-41. And Furman overcame having four starters with four fouls apiece with more than five minutes left in regulation. The Paladins overcame all of that to gut out an 80-72 overtime win.

The victory was Furman's first over an Atlantic Coast Conference foe since a 79-74 overtime win at Florida State on Dec. 4, 2000. It also marked Louisville's first home loss in November since 1972 - a stretch of 59 games.

The Paladins withstood a second half in which they made 5-of-12 shots from three and only 3-of-12 field goals inside the arc with a defensive effort that saw Louisville (1-1) shoot even worse. After shooting 51.6 percent (16-of-31) in the first half, the Cardinals made just 7-of-28 field goals (25 percent) in the second half and only 2-of-10 (20 percent) in overtime.

Every time Louisville had a big play to get the home crowd into it, Furman had an answer. After the Cardinals' Jae'Lyn Withers slammed home an alley oop from Mason Faulkner with 12:37 left in the first half, Alex Hunter drained a 3-pointer 14 seconds later. That pushed Furman's lead to 16-8 and that lead grew to as large as 12 at 24-12 midway through the first half.

That lead faded down the rest of the first half and the Paladins trailed by as many as six points with 17:04 left to play. Joe Anderson's layup at the 2:28 point of the first half tied the game 35-35. Furman had only one other made field goal until the 12:55 mark of the second half, but that Mike Bothwell 3-pointer gave Furman a 47-42 lead. That's how good the Paladins' defense was during that stretch.

After Withers threw down another electrifying dunk that gave Louisville a 49-47 lead with 10:56 left, Bothwell drained a 3-pointer 14 seconds later. Bothwell converted a three-point play 21 seconds later to push Furman's lead to four.

That lead also disappeared and the Paladins trailed 67-62 with 2:43 left, but Louisville was shut out for the rest of regulation. Garrett Hien's three-point play with 1:04 left tied the game at 67-67. Hien's layup on the opening possession of overtime put Furman ahead for good. Hien then provided the dagger on a turnaround fadeaway jumper with 1:41 left that extended the lead to 76-69.

Bothwell finished with 30 points including a career-high 13-of-15 performance at the foul line. After attempting only six free throws in the 118-point performance in the season opener, the Paladins were 20-of-26 free throws at Louisville. Hien finished with a career-high 18 points and eight rebounds, while Hunter had 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists. He also surpassed the 1,000-point career scoring mark.

Jalen Slawson made only one shot - a 3-pointer on the opening possession of the game, but was still a key force with nine rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals. Bothwell, Slawson and Hien each had four fouls with plenty of time left in regulation but no one fouled out.

Faulker, a former standout guard and trash-talker for Western Carolina, fell to 0-5 in his career against Furman.

Bothwell earns national, SoCon honors

Bothwell was named the Southern Conference Player of the Week and also the Lou Henson National Player of the Week by In addition to his 30-point performance at Louisville, Bothwell scored 22 in the opener last Tuesday.

Paladins face another test Monday

There wasn't a lot of time to celebrate a victory over an ACC team for Furman as the road trip continues at Belmont Monday night. The Bruins, who are ranked No. 2 in the College Insider Mid-Major preseason poll, might be an even stiffer test than a Louisville team that was without its suspended head coach.

Belmont (1-1) rebounded from a season-opening 92-80 loss at Ohio by thumping Evansville, 81-43, Saturday. The Bruins have 97 percent of their offensive production and minutes returning from last season's team that went 26-4 and tied Gonzaga for the most regular season wins in the country. Belmont won its 12th regular season conference title over the last 16 seasons, a stretch in which it made nine trips to the NCAA Tournament.

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