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.

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