|Jalen Slawson dunks during Furman's 81-64 win over Radford|
Friday at Timmons Arena. Photo courtesy of Furman
Coming off a heartbreaking overtime loss in a classic at Belmont, Furman returned home Friday and got off to an 0-for-8 start from the floor against Radford. Jalen Slawson was the first starter to score on a layup with 13:04 left in the first half. Later in the half, the Paladins had a three-minute stretch in which they went 0-for-6 on field goals.
But a strong defensive effort, a big contribution from what was a three-man bench Friday, and outstanding free throw shooting helped overcome those early woes. Furman ended up shooting 48.1 percent (26-of-54) from the floor in an 81-64 win.
"I think this team is more mature this year. We've really put an emphasis on guarding the ball, being long and athletic," Slawson said. "We went into that first media timeout down 3-0 and that's not common for us. All six halves this year we've started well. ... Marcus (Foster) and Alex (Williams) came off the bench and gave us a huge boost."
Slawson led a balanced Furman attack with 16 points,10 rebounds, four steals and two blocked shots. He also finished with a Furman version of a triple-double.
"He had 16 (points), 10 (rebounds) and 12 deflections, which is incredible in a game like that. And Conley (Garrison) had eight (deflections). It's been an area of emphasis for us all offseason. We've got to get back to our hand activity and sitting down defensively," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "Last year, we had many games with 20-22 deflections and those two guys get 20 combined tonight.
"That's what we want and we've got to continue to tighten some bolts on that end of the floor."
While the Paladins (3-1) missed their first eight shots, they hung around as the Highlanders made just one of their first nine field goals. When Furman finally got on the board after a Slawson rejection led to a Foster layup at the 15:25 mark, Radford only led 3-2.
One minute later, Williams' first collegiate bucket was a 3-pointer off a feed from Foster. On the Paladins next possession, Williams made it back-to-back threes off an assist from fellow freshman reserve James Repass. A Repass rebound led to Slawson's layup that gave Furman a 10-8 lead. Repass pulled down three rebounds during the three-minute flurry.
"Alex is a big time three-point threat with size. He's a confident player. ... We were in here earlier today and I told him, 'Just relax when you go out there. Try to not throw the first one up. Let's see if we can get a drive, an offensive rebound, get fouled and get to the free throw line.' He goes, 'Coach, you know what? You're right. I just need to settle in a little bit.' And man, they came right out and swung that thing to the corner and he fired it up there and hit it," Richey said with a laugh. "That's just who he is. He's a big shot maker. We've seen it all summer and fall. He did a lot of good things out there tonight."
Richey added that the hardest challenge this year is finding minutes for everyone to play.
"Joe Anderson, Jaylon Pugh, Ben Beeker (none of whom played Friday) - all those guys can help us," Richey said. "What it comes down to is you've only got so many guys you can put in the game rotationally and give quality minutes to a point where they're going to develop.
"We're going to have us a good bench as we continue to develop. Seventeen points from the bench tonight and historically that's a good night for us."
In the second half, Williams had a sequence that highlighted Furman's defensive effort. It started with him lunging out of bounds and bouncing a loose ball off a Radford player to keep possession with the Paladins. After Radford's Chyree Walker stole a pass, he appeared to be headed for a dunk before Williams soared in and made enough of a distraction to force a miss. The Highlanders (1-3) got the offensive rebound and got it back to Walker, who bulled his way to the basket but Williams drew a charge.
Earlier in the half, Garrison got a steal off of one of those deflections. Garrison, who's 13-of-26 on three-pointers this season, made the scoop-and-score with a layup off the strip. The second two-pointer for him this season pushed Furman's lead to 43-35.
"I think because of my build, I get that (three-point specialist) stereotype, but I just go out and play hard," Garrison said. "I pride myself on getting some 50/50 balls like that. ... I love doing that for a team because in that moment in can change the momentum of a game.
"We could've been down 12-0 if we weren't guarding tonight, and that's a whole different ballgame."
Radford cut the Paladins lead down to four at 54-50 with 10:08 left, but Slawson's putback started a 19-6 Furman run. A Garrison three-pointer capped the run, which gave Furman a commanding 73-56 lead with 3:29 left.
Mike Bothwell had 15 points, six assists and drew seven fouls for Furman, which went 20-for-22 from the foul line. Garrison finished with 14 points and four steals, while Garrett Hien had 11 points and five assists. Foster matched his career-high with nine points and had two steals.
"We were just in a tractor pull for a little bit, but fortunately our defense held up and I thought we continued to play hard," Richey said. "To go almost six minutes without scoring to start the game and still with 81 points, I'm definitely proud of those guys.
"This group is just learning how to respond. ... They didn't panic or get tight. They had great team talks in the timeouts."
Furman returns to action Sunday when it hosts Navy at 3 p.m. The Midshipmen (2-2) opened the season with a victory at Virginia. Navy's other win this season came Saturday at Timmons Arena. The Midshipmen jumped out to a 27-8 halftime lead and defeated Radford 47-33. Navy's two losses this season were to Virginia Tech and Louisville.