Friday, December 24, 2021

Paladins earn complete win over Presbyterian

Mike Bothwell had 21 points in Furman's 75-61 win over
Presbyterian Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Furman

Furman closed out the non-conference portion of its schedule Tuesday with one of its most complete wins of the season. The Paladins shot 59.6 percent from the floor, including 55.6 percent on 3-pointers (10-of-18) in a 75-61 win over Presbyterian.

The hot shooting didn't really register during Furman coach Bob Richey's postgame press conference. He was more focused on the Paladins' defensive effort, which resulted in the Blue Hose shooting 44.8 percent. The first half may have been Furman's best this season as PC shot 38.5 percent, while the Paladins shot 65.4 percent to take a 42-22 lead into halftime.

That was a perfect remedy following a heartbreaking three-point loss at Mississippi State the last time out.

"That was a good win and good effort by our team, especially in the first half to set the tone defensively. I thought we did a good job flying around," Richey said. "Their guard (Rayshon) Harrison is really good and we did a good job on him in the first half. We let him loose a little in the second half.

"The team responded how you'd like to see them respond (to the Mississippi State loss). Don't come into the next game with your head down. Come in with some energy and resolve about you and I thought we did that. I don't know how many times we've held a team in the 30s (shooting) percentage-wise. That was definitely one of our better defensive halves of the season."

Some of the defensive problems Furman (8-5) has had this season were on display early on Tuesday. A Blue Hose team that currently ranks 16th nationally in offensive rebounds per game grabbed four offensive boards in the first five minutes against Furman. That led to six second-chance points for Presbyterian (7-7) and the game was tied 8-8 at the 14:57 mark.

That's when a pair of backups sparked the Paladins. Joe Anderson entered after the first media timeout along with freshman Tyrese Hughey, who made his debut as Furman had planned on redshirting this season. After an offensive rebound by Jalen Slawson, Hughey's first collegiate shot was a dunk off a feed from Anderson.

PC's ensuing possession ended on a charge drawn by Anderson. That led to a what appeared to be a 3-pointer by Hughey, but his foot was on the line. Anderson then had a steal and rebounded his own miss before Mike Bothwell knocked down a jumper. Anderson hit a three the next time down off a feed from Bothwell after an offensive rebound by Marcus Foster.

Hughey checked out at the under-12 media timeout. During his first nearly four minutes in a college game, Furman outscored the Blue Hose 9-2 and had three offensive rebounds.

"I fell in love with Tyrese when we recruited him. If you go back and watch his high school highlights, he just plays the game so hard," Richey said. "We wanted to try to redshirt him, more so offensively to help him grasp our concepts and give him more confidence on that end of the floor."

Richey said the decision to take Hughey's redshirt off came after seeing the same things too often this season. Specifically, Furman allowing too many offensive rebounds, too high of a shooting percentage at the rim and allowing the ball to enter the paint too much.

"At some point as a coach, you've got to say, 'we've got to figure this out.' You can't keep doing the same things over and over and expect a different result. We've got to be able to protect the rim" Richey said. "I just went with my gut. I practiced him Sunday with the ones and the twos. I told him I had not totally made my decision, we'd just see how this goes. And he had a great practice. He was in the top two or three in toughness stats for us and he did the same thing Monday."

That energy that Hughey helped create continued after he left. The Paladins followed that 9-2 run with a 12-0 run to take a 29-10 lead with 7:36 left in the first half. After pushing the lead to 20 at the break, Furman's advantage was never seriously threatened in the second half as the Blue Hose never got closer than 12.

"For lack of a better term, Tyrese is a junkyard dog. He's one of the hardest rocking dudes I've ever played with. Not scared of anything and strong as an ox," said Slawson, who finished with 18 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks, two steals and seven fouls drawn. "At this point, he doesn't understand all of our concepts yet, but he's worked his tail off to get where he is.

"The toughness and grittiness he plays with could be a difference maker when conference play gets here."

There was still a moment of drama in the second half when Alex Hunter appeared to suffer a serious injury with 9:24 left. After a PC shooter got Hunter off his feet in drawing a foul, Hunter appeared to land on his left shoulder and head. The fifth-year senior was on his back motionless for a few minutes before slowly walking off with help from trainers. He's now in concussion protocol.

"He became the all-time winningest player in Furman history, so I'm really proud of him and he's going to be okay," Richey said. "It was a scary sight though. ... He was able to come to and enjoy some time with the team (after the game)."

The injury cost Hunter more chances of extending his national lead in 3-pointers as he did not get one to fall for the first time this season. Bothwell, who didn't get anything to fall at Mississippi State in being shut out as a starter for the first time ever, bounced back against the Blue Hose with a game-high 21 points and six rebounds. Bothwell was 7-of-9 from the floor, 5-of-6 from the foul line and made 2-of-3 threes.

"It was just refocus on what matters. I had not been playing with the same joy and belief," Bothwell said. "I just worried about the right things - picking up others, defense and winning. When you do that, you kind of forget about the pressures of offense."

Anderson was the lone other Paladin in double figures with 12 points, four assists and four rebounds. Foster had six points and seven rebounds, while Hughey finished with six points. Freshman Alex Williams, who's made an impact off the bench this season, didn't dress out Tuesday due to a coaches' decision.

Harrison led PC with 15 points on 7-of-20 shooting and three assists. He went 2-for-7 in the first half as the Blue Hose had no player with more than four points at the break. 

Furman will open Southern Conference play by hosting Samford Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs (10-2) finished off non-conference play with a 75-73 win at Ole Miss Tuesday.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Furman drops another heartbreaker to SEC foe

Alex Hunter scored a career-high 30 points Friday, but Furman lost a
heartbreaker at Mississippi State, 69-66. Photo courtesy of Furman

An amazing shooting night by Alex Hunter and a remarkable comeback by Furman weren't enough to prevent another heartbreaking loss on a Southeastern Conference floor Friday. Hunter's potential game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer bounced off no good as Mississippi State held on for a 69-66 win. The Bulldogs went on a 6-0 run over the final 1:16 of the game to hand the Paladins their third three-point loss to an SEC foe in as many Decembers.

Prior to that miss, Hunter had knocked down 8-of-10 attempts from beyond the arc and finished with a career-high 30 points. Hunter has made 51-of-101 threes this season and is the only player in Division I with 50 made threes.

"He had the hot hand. I was pulling everything out of the playbook possible for him," Furman coach Bob Richey said on the Furman Radio Network's postgame show. "What a warrior. I'm so proud of him. He made a decision to come back and he didn't waver. And the game's rewarding him for his toughness, loyalty and commitment to this program.

"It's a pretty frustrating loss, but I'm proud of our group. I love our fight. We showed tremendous guts. To be down 18 on the road to an SEC team, we had every excuse to pack it in."

On the Paladins' previous two trips to SEC venues, Clay Mounce had 21 points in 16 minutes before fouling out with more than eight minutes left in an 83-80 loss to Alabama last year and Jalen Slawson played all of eight minutes before fouling out with 9:12 left in an 81-78 loss at Auburn two years ago. Each of those games featured critical blown calls that gave loose balls out of bounds to the home team.

On Friday, the officiating job wasn't as comical but basically what you come to expect in these matchups now. Mississippi State (8-3), which was bigger and drove inside more, was 14-of-21 at the foul line, while Furman (7-5) went 2-of-5. There was a pretty egregious non-call though at a pretty critical time.

Down 69-66 with 7.4 seconds left, Slawson had the ball and was wisely fouled with 4.5 seconds left as it was only the Bulldogs' sixth foul that half. Before Furman inbounded the ball at midcourt, Mississippi State coach Ben Howland gave the signal to his team to foul. Hunter got the ball and appeared to be immediately fouled by Garrison Brooks, but nothing was called. As he weaved his way around and then between Brooks and DJ Jeffries, it appeared there was contact but again no whistle. That left Hunter with an off-balance look from the top of the key that bounced harmlessly off the front of the rim.

In a postgame interview on the SEC Network, Brooks said, "I grabbed the guy and had told the referees that we were going to try to foul."

The game didn't have to come down to that final play though. A plethora of awful offensive possessions saw Furman trail 29-11 with five minutes left in the first half before the Paladins came roaring back. Slawson's layup with 9:31 left gave Furman a 48-47 lead. Back-to-back three-pointers by Hunter gave Furman a 57-51 lead with 7:13 left. Conley Garrison hit 2-of-3 free throws to stake the Paladins to a 64-58 edge with 3:51 left.

But Mississippi State put the 6-foot-7 Jeffries on Hunter to try to deny him the ball and Furman reverted back to those same first-half mistakes. After going 15 minutes in the second half without a turnover, the Paladins had five the rest of the way to finish with 18 for the game.

The only basket in that stretch was a jumper by Slawson that gave Furman a 66-63 lead with 2:12 left. On a night when the Paladins drained 14 threes, they missed their last three including a wide-open look for Garrison in the corner. That one would've given them a one-point lead with nine seconds left.

"I'll take Conley Garrison wide open in the corner any day of the week. That's what he does," Richey said. "If the shot goes, we probably feel great right now but unfortunately it didn't."

Slawson finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while Garrison had 10 points and four assists. Mike Bothwell, who's hit so many game-tying shots in the final seconds to force overtimes this season, didn't have the chance Friday as he fouled out with 21 seconds left. Bothwell had five assists and two steals, but no points on just 0-of-3 shooting from the floor. It's the first time that Bothwell's been held scoreless in a game he started.

"We've got to get Mike going. I know that," Richey said. "We've got to figure out how we can get him back to how he was playing and we will."

Furman wraps up non-conference play when it hosts Presbyterian Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Paladins go cold after halftime in loss at UNC

Playing near his Raleigh home, Alex Hunter scored a game-high 21 points in
Furman's 74-61 loss at North Carolina Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Furman

Furman took on North Carolina for the first time in 35 years with its first trip to Chapel Hill, N.C. in 50 on Tuesday and stood toe-to-toe with the Tar Heels in the first half. Well not really toe-to-toe, seeing as how UNC dominated inside. More like point-to-point, as most of Furman's toes were behind the three-point line. The Paladins hit 8-of-15 threes in the first half to go into halftime all tied at 39-39.

Playing against an elite blueblood of college basketball, there had to be a feeling that Furman would cool off a bit in the second half. However, the rate at which it did was rather stunning given how well the Paladins typically shoot. Furman made just 2-of-18 three-point attempts in the second half to fall, 74-61, before a crowd of 14,342 at the Dean Dome.

"For whatever reason, certain guys just didn't have good shooting nights and everybody's going to go through those at times. ... Nobody wants to hear this, but it's always going to be a make or miss game," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "You can have great action and a great scheme, but when the shot's there you've got to step up. You don't have to make them all, but you can't go 2-for-18. Give (UNC) credit. Their length and pressure definitely rattled us.

"We're going through finals (exams) and our guys have had a very challenging schedule. We knew the task was going to be a tall one up here, but we came in expecting to play well and be in the game. I think you saw that in the first half with just the fight that we played with. Unfortunately, it just wasn't consistent enough."

Furman trailed 7-0 just more than two minutes in and 13-5 just more than four minutes in, but clawed it's way back into it. When Mike Bothwell knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:51 left in the first half, the Paladins (7-4) held a 39-37 lead and were 15-of-25 from the floor.

After that bucket, Furman made just five of its next 30 field goal attempts. After the last of those 30 shots, UNC got a three-pointer to push its lead to 74-52 with 2:57 left.

While the missed shots certainly sealed the Paladins' fate, getting annihilated inside made their fate quite sealable. Furman was outscored 44-26 in the paint and 19-0 on second-chance points. Even with 23 missed shots in the second half, the Paladins only had three offensive rebounds after halftime and four for the game. The Tar Heels won the rebounding battle 44-25. UNC had a 21-10 edge on rebounds in the first half, including nine offensive boards. If Furman could've just grabbed a few of those nine, it most assuredly would've taken a lead into halftime.

"I thought we had a good presence to us once we endured that rough start to the game. I thought we really competed and didn't seem like we were in a pressure cooker. ... We looked a little bit tight in the second half and a little unsure," Richey said. "You've got to give North Carolina credit there with it's pressure and length. They really got out and smothered Alex (Hunter) in the second half.

"As for rebounding, they're 6-11 and 6-11. I wish we would've kept the margin closer than we did. I don't think that's something that we should necessarily accept. We've got to look and see our positioning, our technique and our fundamentals on those box outs. Was it just that we got overpowered and outmatched, or did we give ourselves a chance? ... We've just got to be tougher."

While shooting and rebounding were obviously issues, Furman had a pretty clean night otherwise. The Paladins had 18 assists on their 24 made field goals and suffered just seven turnovers. Hunter scored a game-high 21 points to lead Furman. Of those 21, 17 came in the first half for the Raleigh native. The lone other Paladin in double figures was Jalen Slawson, who finished with 12 points, seven assists, six rebounds, three steals and a blocked shot.

"Watching it live, it seemed like some of those (18 three-pointers in the second half) were pretty good looks. We've got to be able to step into those with confidence. ... Out of 16 misses (from three) in the second half, if four or five go down then all of a sudden you've got a ballgame," Richey said. "I am proud of the way we kept fighting, giving up that much length and size. The environment was the best we've played in all year as well. We've just got to see what we can learn from this and how we can grow from it."

Furman will wrap up the road portion of its non-conference schedule Friday at Mississippi State. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised on the SEC Network.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Furman gets back to defense, topples App State

Mike Bothwell scored 16 points in Furman's 73-65 win over
Appalachian State Friday. Photo courtesy of Furman

Mike Bothwell made more than 50 percent of his shots for the first time since Nov. 19 Friday. Meanwhile, Furman held an opponent under 50 percent shooting for the second time since Nov. 19. Bothwell and Jalen Slawson scored 16 points apiece and the Paladins limited Appalachian State to a 39.7 percent shooting night to secure a 73-65 win before a raucous crowd of 1,978 at Timmons Arena.

After shooting 32.8 percent from the floor over the previous five games, Bothwell was 6-for-9, including 3-of-6 from three, on Friday. He also became the 49th Paladin to score 1,000 career points. Earlier this season, Alex Hunter became the 48th to join that club.

If you don't think Bothwell's shooting night had anything to with the Furman (7-3) getting back to the level of defense it expects to play, Bothwell says think again.

"I just took the message Coach (Bob) Richey put on our team of focusing on the defensive end. When you have a singular focus and are locked in on that, it kind of just lets you be free everywhere else," Bothwell said. "We've been disappointed in our defense lately especially on Tuesday night (in a loss at Winthrop). When you put your focus on stops, it energizes you and everything else just seems to come to you.

"A big part of the game was making them take tough, contested shots. We tried to bait them into pull-up jumpers or pull-up threes, especially in the second half (when App State shot 34.4 percent)."

Furman's defense this season has seemingly been a home run or a strikeout. Half of it's opponents have shot at least 50 percent (Navy 60.7, Winthrop 56.1, USC Upstate 50.8, College of Charleston 50.8 and Belmont 50.0). The other half haven't shot above 40.9 percent (North Greenville 40.9, App State 39.7, Radford 37.5, High Point 36.8, Louisville 36.2).

What may be most encouraging for the Paladins about Friday's performance was that they had success defensively without the typical amount of deflections they normally get. The Mountaineers (5-5) had just 10 turnovers. Only Louisville (seven) has had fewer against Furman this season.

"We just had to have a better defensive effort than we did on Tuesday. They shot 45 percent in the first half, which isn't necessarily lighting it up defensively but for us, it's an improvement. I challenged the guys at halftime to go defend even better in the second half and they did," Richey said. "That's a credit to the leadership of our players. ... It was a complete team win, but the biggest part of the night was that we got stops when it mattered most.

"Our defense statistically is not where we need it to be, but we're capable. When you're capable of doing something, it comes down to responsibility."

It was a team win in every sense of the term. Nine Paladins scored and eight had at least one assist. Furman finished with 21 assists and 10 turnovers. Over the final 16:30 of the game, the lone Paladin turnover came on a controversial shot clock violation. It was originally ruled that Marcus Foster's 3-pointer had beaten the buzzer with 9:42 left. After a video review, officials said Foster didn't release it in time.

That shot clock violation came less than a minute after Slawson was called for a flagrant foul after planting his forearm in the chest of a Mountaineer away from the ball. That all helped App State go on a 6-0 run to tie the game at 51-51 with 9:14 left.

On Furman's next possession, Garrett Hien grabbed an offensive rebound and the ball was knocked out of bounds. During an injury timeout to clean a Mountaineer that was bleeding, Richey drew up a great play which saw Joe Anderson inbounding from under Furman's basket. Anderson hit a streaking Bothwell for a layup, which started an 8-2 run and gave the Paladins the lead for good.

App State cut the lead to 61-60 on a free throw following Slawson's fourth foul with 4:22 left. After the earlier flagrant foul and that fourth foul with more than four minutes left, Slawson may not have gotten the chance to stay on the court in past seasons. This season, he not only stayed out there, he delivered the knockout punches.

Slawson had a layup on Furman's next possession. Later, he hit back-to-back jumpers to make it an 8-0 run and push the lead to 69-60 with 1:23 left.

"At the finish, Jalen Slawson was huge. He's starting to have a little closer mentality to him," Richey said. "There was good growth on his part tonight. He got the F1 (flagrant) call on him and had some foul trouble early. I brought him out and had a little talk with him. I said, 'let's just catch our wind. Let's figure out how we want to finish this game. Nothing else at this point matters - no call, nothing with the other team. I want you to take a minute and think about it and then go out there and finish.'

"It was like a switch. He wasn't playing bad by any stretch, but he wasn't playing like he's been playing. But those last eight minutes, he really turned it on."

Hunter was the lone other Paladin in double figures with 11 points and he also had a game-high six assists and five rebounds. Foster had eight points and nine rebounds, while Conley Garrison had eight points and seven rebounds. Anderson finished with a career-high five assists in 23 minutes off the bench.

Furman will close out the road portion of its non-conference schedule this week with games at North Carolina on Tuesday and at Mississippi State on Friday. Tip-off in Chapel Hill is set for 7 p.m. in a game that will be televised on ESPN2.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Slawson's triple-double not enough for Furman

Jalen Slawson had the first triple-double in Furman history Tuesday,
but the Paladins fell at Winthrop, 85-80. Photo courtesy of Furman

ROCK HILL - The first triple-double in school history was not enough to overcome what's become a troubling trend for the Furman men's basketball team this season. Winthrop shot 56.1 percent from the floor, including 61.5 percent in the second half, to outrace the Paladins, 86-81, Tuesday night. While the mid-major battle lived up to the hype as the lead changed 24 times and there were 10 ties, the defensive performance didn't live up to the standard that Furman has set for itself. 

While Furman (6-3) has played five overtime periods and faced a rugged schedule thus far, it's allowing 77.1 points per game. That's better than the last two opponents (Winthrop has allowed 79 points per game and College of Charleston 79.9), but not better than many others as it ranks 316th in the country. The last time the Paladins allowed more than 68.9 points per game in a season was eight years ago when they gave up 72.4 per game.

The Paladins' field-goal defense of 46.2 percent ranks 305th nationally. The last time Furman allowed opponents to shoot at that clip was the 2012-13 team that went 6-24.

"If you score 80 points on the road, you've got to win that game. ... We're just not consistent in our defensive approach right now. Give Winthrop credit. They played very well offensively and put us in some very stressful situations," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "To have 12 deflections in an entire basketball game and to have one time all night where we got three consecutive stops, that's not going to get it done on the road. It's not going to get it done at home to be honest with you.

"Failure and losing is never catastrophic unless you refuse to learn from it. ... To get to a championship caliber level, we're going to have to be more complete, especially on that (defensive) end of the floor."

The defensive struggles overshadowed what's been a much better trend for Furman this season - another phenomenal performance by Jalen Slawson. When the reigning Southern Conference Player of the Week grabbed his 10th rebound with 5:40 left in the game it marked Furman's first triple-double ever.

Coming off a career-high 33-point performance in the win over Charleston, Slawson had a career-high 12 assists Tuesday. He also had 15 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

"I'm always going to be hard on Jalen just because I have such a high expectation for what he can be, but his growth is evident. He played a complete game tonight," Richey said. "There's going to be a couple at the rim that he's going to want back that I thought he could probably finish, but that's just going to continue to be part of his progression.

"For him to be able to distribute the ball, rebound the ball and score the ball like that, it makes us hard to defend."

After Slawson broke a 76-76 tie on a turnaround jumper in the paint with 4:40 left, the only scoring over the next two-plus minutes was a pair of free throws by former Presbyterian and Western Carolina guard Cory Hightower to tie it up. Slawson had a pair of turnovers and Marcus Foster missed the front end of a one-and-one at the foul line over that stretch 

Slawson's final minute of action kind of summed up the game in general. He made a steal on one end and nine seconds later on the other, had a beautiful feed to Alex Hunter for a layup. That put Furman up 80-78 with 2:19 left. Winthrop's 6-foot-9. 275-pound forward D.J. Burns missed a jumper, but Hightower ran down the loose ball rebound and found Michael Anumba for a 3-pointer with 1:47 left.

On the other end, Slawson faked a three to get around Burns and drove to the basket but former ETSU guard Patrick Good drew a charge. It was Slawson's sixth turnover and fifth foul sending him to the bench for the final 1:32. Conley Garrison made a steal to get Furman the ball back, but Foster couldn't get a layup to fall.

Winthrop's Drew Buggs drove for a layup to push the lead to 83-80 with 36 seconds left. After making a tying shot in the final seconds to force an overtime session three times over the last two games, Mike Bothwell's 3-pointer with 17 seconds left didn't make it in this time. Good made a pair of free throws with 11 seconds left to seal the win for the Eagles (5-4).

"This game probably came down to a loose ball. We're up two, get this miss, the ball's loose and we're not first to the deck. They get the ball and shot to go up one and the place goes crazy," Richey said. "You get the possession there and our offensive efficiency was pretty high most of the night. You probably have a chance to score if you get that loose ball."

A key moment in Tuesday's game came early in the second half. After Slawson drew a foul from Burns, he was walking back from the sideline as Burns was leaving the court and made contact with him. Burns proceeded to shove Slawson off with his left forearm and the official nearby called a double technical. That obviously was a key factor late for Slawson, but not as much for Burns who finished with three fouls.

"I was told that he walked into Burns, Burns pushed him and that they were chirping all night," Richey said of the official's explanation. "That's why it was a double tech."

While Furman swept all six games from Prosser's Western Carolina teams over the past three seasons, things weren't always the most sportsmanlike. That continued with Prosser's new team on Tuesday.

"I think there's enough in the game in terms of how we need to play, how we need to guard and how we need to move the ball that the focus should be on us," Richey said. "We shouldn't be talking to referees. We shouldn't be talking to the other team. We've got to control what we control. When you engage in that and start going down that road, now your mind is on that.

"This is our fifth one-possession game. Three have gone our way and two haven't. When you're in those games, all your focus is required on the job at hand. The job at hand is to get stops and make shots. That's where our mentality has to be."

Hunter finished with a game-high 24 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-6 from three. Bothwell was the other Paladin with 10 points on 3-of-8 shooting. After averaging 22.5 points per game and shooting 52.8 percent from the floor over the first four games this season, Bothwell is averaging 11.6 and shooting 32.8 percent since.

Furman hosts Appalachian State Friday at 7 p.m.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Anderson keys stunning Furman comeback

Joe Anderson had five steals in 17 minutes off the bench to key Furman's
comeback win over the College of Charleston. Photo courtesy of Furman

Mike Bothwell hit a last-second shot to force overtime, again.

Jalen Slawson was a warrior all over the court, again.

Alex Hunter made a shot to just keep Furman above water, again and again and again.

But the Paladin who keyed an unbelievable comeback win over College of Charleston Friday night finished with just two points off the bench in his first game since Furman topped Louisville on Nov. 12. Joe Anderson made five steals and the Paladins outscored the Cougars by 18 points during his 17 minutes on the court as Furman rallied for a 91-88 overtime win.

"In my opinion, we've lost a lot of focus in college sports of what this is about. This is about teaching people how to respond in life. It's not instant gratification. It's not that you've got to wait to feel good to do good. In this life, you've got to do good to feel good," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "What Joe's been able to do in the past couple of weeks is have a direct shift in his attitude. He started coming in this building every day and was deliberate in how he was getting better. He hasn't missed a day of extra work. When I say 'extra work,' I'm talking about in the mornings, with a position coach or on his own. I go down there, he's down there.

"Instead of worrying about his circumstance, he lives on vision. It's one of 'when I get my opportunity, I will be ready. I don't feel good right now not playing, but I'm going to do the right thing.' ... We knew we had to make a personnel adjustment (in the second half) and we were confident he was ready. He'd earned this.

"He played desperate. He basically said, 'I'm going to let all 3,000 people in here see that I've got my opportunity and I'm not letting go of it.' ... It's a beautiful moment for him. It's one he will never forget for the rest of his life ... because he changed the game tonight. I could go on and on about what he's done in the dark. And what you do in the dark will always come out in the light."

Furman (6-2) jumped out to a 14-7 lead four minutes into the game after a 3-pointer by Hunter. It was all Charleston (5-3) for about the next 25 minutes of game time though. The Cougars led by as many as 11 in the first half before Hunter drained a three with 10 seconds left to cut the deficit to 42-34 at the half.

In the second half, Charleston pushed its lead to 15 three different times. The last time came on a 3-pointer by Reyne Smith with 12:33 left that made it 61-46. After a Furman turnover, Anderson returned to the court for the first time in 21 days. Twenty seconds later he made a steal that led to a Garrett Hien layup. Thirty seconds later another Anderson steal led to a Slawson layup. The Paladins got the lead down to single digits on a Hunter jumper off a steal by Conley Garrison.

The Paladins could not get any closer over the next few minutes and trailed 72-62 with 5:09 left when Hunter hit a jumper. Following another Anderson steal, Hunter made another jumper to cut the lead to 72-66 with 4:50 left.

"I'm so proud of Joe Anderson. He's been working so hard. ... With the depth of our team, he just hasn't had a crack at playing as much," Bothwell said. "In our program, everyone has to wait their turn but be ready if it gets called one night. Joe's performance tonight is the epitome of our program."

Anderson made his only made shot count on a turnaround jumper in the paint to get Charleston's lead down to six again with 1:50 left. The Cougars led 78-72 when Hunter buried a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left off an assist from Anderson. Furman pressed Charleston and the inbounds pass was intercepted by Anderson. He found Hunter for another three that bounced off no good. Charleston's Dimitrius Underwood grabbed the rebound but tumbled to the ground with it and was called for traveling with 10 seconds left.

After hitting last-second layups to force overtime and then double overtime in Furman's win at High Point on Tuesday, Bothwell got the ball near the top of the key. He twisted, turned and went under his defender to fire up a 3-pointer that banked in with one second left to tie the game and send Timmons Arena into a frenzy.

"When I pivoted, I kind of got open even though I was off balance. I honestly shot it trying to go chase the rebound and kick it out real quick. ... It just happened to hit the backboard and go in," Bothwell said. "These past two games, it's just about never giving up. In basketball or off the court, if you just have the attitude that you'll never quit, you'll be shocked by what can happen.

"This is going to be one of my favorite wins because of just how hard we played and how much we came together."

Slawson scored Furman's first five points in overtime and then hit a jumper to give the Paladins an 87-84 lead with 47 seconds left in overtime. After Smith nailed his sixth 3-pointer with 14 seconds left to cut Furman's lead to 89-88, Hunter hit a pair of free throws with 11 seconds left. Everyone held their breath as Charleston's Fah'Mir Ali launched a 3-pointer as time expired, then exhaled as it bounced away no good and the Paladins celebrated their third overtime win this season.

"I just couldn't be more proud of our group to be as relentless as we were in a game where we just weren't very sharp offensively," Richey said. "We were at about a 36 percent offensive efficiency rating of quality of possession for most of the game, but we finished the game at 50 which is the mark for us. That's just shows how over the last 14 minutes of the game and overtime, the change we were able to create based on playing for one another.

"That's what our program is built on - being great teammates, being willing to move the ball and fly around on defense. We've got to make sure we do that consistently. When we do, this group will have a chance to be special."

Slawson, still playing with a very swollen knee from a scary collision and spill at USC Upstate on Nov. 27, finished with a career-high 33 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. The Summerville native made 13-of-18 free throws after drawing 13 fouls in the game. He earned Southern Conference Player of the Week honors on Monday.

Hunter finished with 25 points, 19 of which came after halftime. Bothwell scored 19.

Smith had 24 points for Charleston, while Underwood scored 15. The Cougars' leading scorer this season, John Meeks, had 14 points. All of those came in the first nine minutes of the game and he fouled out with 1:27 left in the second half. He was one of three Charleston players who fouled out as Furman went 27-of-39 from the foul line.

"Honestly, (drawing fouls) wasn't something I was thinking about. Our coaches are wizards and some of the smartest people I know, so I'm sure they could've been thinking about," Slawson said. "We recognized early on that (Meeks) had half of their points, so we buckled down and tried to take him out of the equation.

"The amount of space that playing around four guards lets me have is a really nice luxury. I love passing, so if you want to double (team) me, I'm completely fine with that. But you have to realize that you're leaving a really elite shooter somewhere on the perimeter wide open. My 33 (points) were because of those guys."

Furman faces another mid-major test on Tuesday when it plays at Winthrop at 7 p.m.

Friday, December 3, 2021

Bothwell delivers in crunch time for Paladins

Conley Garrison had 11 points and nine rebounds - and helped Bob Richey avoid a
tech - in Furman's double overtime win at High Point. Photo courtesy of Furman

For the third consecutive game, Furman leading scorer Mike Bothwell struggled to get his shots to fall Tuesday night at High Point. But when the Paladins needed him most, Bothwell delivered. Bothwell forced overtime on a layup with 0.6 seconds left in regulation, forced double overtime on a layup with 4.4 seconds left, and scored the first points of double overtime on a layup that gave Furman the lead for good.

In a game that had 87 missed field goals, 38 missed 3-pointers and 26 missed free throws, the Paladins pulled off a 74-70 win. It's the third game that's gone to overtime this season for Furman (5-2), which played a total of three overtime games over the past two seasons combined.

Bothwell finished with 11 points on 5-of-20 shooting. Over the last three games, Bothwell is 12-of-42 from the floor, including 1-of-13 on 3-pointers, and is 4-of-8 from the foul line. None of that seemed to matter as he confidently drove to the basket on each of those late layups.

"It wasn't a typical night for him, but he made the ones that mattered," Furman coach Bob Richey said on the Furman Radio Network's postgame show. "He showed up at the right time."

"It was just a gutsy win. We faced a ton of adversity throughout the game, just like they did. Both teams played incredibly hard. Tubby (Smith) had his group prepared, which we obviously knew that he would."

Richey said some issues the team addressed following the Belmont overtime loss paid off at High Point.

"Coach speak is that you want to learn from losing, but we really took that serious after Belmont. We didn't feel like we managed the end of regulation well and overtime got away from us a little bit," Richey said. "A lot of things we worked on management-wise came into play tonight."

Nobody will likely be lined up to watch film of the High Point game over and over, but Furman can take some important lessons from the gritty win. Most notably, how it performed after Jalen Slawson fouled out with 2:41 left in the first overtime. Slawson's availability Tuesday was a game-time decision after he appeared to suffer a serious knee injury at USC Upstate last Saturday. After Slawson left that game, life without him was not pretty for the Paladins even though they still won by double digits. 

When Slawson fouled out Tuesday, High Point made both free throws and then hit a jumper to go up 65-61. The Panthers didn't score the rest of that overtime though. Marcus Foster had a layup with 1:24 left to cut the lead to two before Bothwell's layup in the final seconds forced a second overtime.

After Bothwell's layup opened the second overtime scoring, Garrett Hien - who came in for Slawson - made a nice move to the bucket. Hien drove to the right side of the basket, stopped and turned around to lay it in left-handed to push Furman's lead to 69-65 with 3:13 left.

"Marcus Foster just had big play after big play, and I thought Garrett played well," Richey said. "He's had big moments for us. Obviously, we don't beat Louisville without him and tonight, I really felt him. Guys really stepped up and I couldn't be more proud of our team.

"This is one of my favorite wins in five years. There's no doubt in my mind, just because of how hard it was. ... There wasn't anything going our way and we just found a way to get it done."

The Paladins also learned about the power of the "get back" tactic. With Furman trailing 65-63 and 16.8 seconds left in the first overtime, Foster missed a pair of free throws. On the second miss, Hien grabbed a routine rebound, but the whistle blew. When the official signaled a foul on Hien, Richey's top blew too. Richey was livid and assistant Jeremy Growe quickly cut off him off from storming on the court towards the official. A technical foul there would've likely put nails in Furman's coffin.

"It was Jeremy, but it was Conley Garrison too. He ran up and said 'Coach, we still have a chance to win this game.' " Richey said. "I probably shouldn't have reacted like that. I've tried to be as composed with refs as I can and just coach the team and not worry about it, but that was a tough one."

In a classic example of "ball don't lie," High Point missed both of its free throws. Moments after calming down his new coach, Garrison grabbed the rebound off the second miss. All that set the stage for Bothwell's next game-tying bucket.

Alex Hunter, who also struggled to get anything to fall as he went 3-of-13 from three, hit a dagger in double overtime. His layup pushed Furman's lead to 71-65 with 1:05 left. With 14 seconds left, Foster hit a pair of free throws to extend the lead to 73-67 and help seal the win.

Hunter finished with 18 points to lead Furman, while Marcus Foster made it a second double-double in as many starts as he had 15 points and 14 boards. Slawson may not have been 100 percent, but you surely couldn't tell. He had 12 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, three blocked shots and two steals. Garrison finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.

Furman returns to Timmons Arena Friday to host College of Charleston at 7 p.m.