Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Richey gets win No. 100 as Furman tops Bears

Furman's Joe Anderson had 15 points in the Paladins' 81-66
win over Mercer Saturday. Photo courtesy of Furman

How good was Furman's opening half against Mercer Saturday at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena? In the second half, the Paladins had a 12-and-a-half minute stretch in which they made just 3-of-18 field goals and still managed to win by 15.

Mike Bothwell had 17 points, five assists and two blocks as Furman downed the Bears, 81-66, at its first game back in The Well in two years. After shooting 53.3 percent in the first half - to take a 44-27 lead into halftime - the Paladins (11-6, 3-1 Southern Conference) shot 30.8 percent in the second half, but took care of business at the foul line. Furman made 23-of-26 free throws (88.5 percent), including 16-of-18 in the second half.

Meanwhile, Furman's defense was locked in from start to finish as Mercer shot 40.7 percent in the first half and 41.2 in the second. The Paladins improved to 9-0 when holding an opponent under 50 percent shooting for the game.

"That was a good complete game by our team. Everybody that played contributed," said Furman coach Bob Richey, who earned career victory No. 100 Saturday. "Our intensity level defensively in the first half really set the tone."

Furman was coming off a 58-54 win at UNC Greensboro in a game in which it was outrebounded 38-23 and only four Paladins scored. While Mercer (8-7, 1-1) plays a different style, it has a similar build as the Spartans. Despite the presence of the Bears' 6-foot-10, 280-pound Shannon Grant, 6-9, 253-pound leading scorer Felipe Haase, and 6-10, 230-pound Victor Bafutto, the Paladins won Saturday's rebounding battle 41-29.

Seven different Paladins also grabbed at least four rebounds, led by 6-4, 210-pound Marcus Foster, who had a game-high eight. After draining four three-pointers at UNCG, Foster went 0-for-2 from beyond the arc Saturday but did go 8-for-8 at the foul line and finished with 12 points.

"Marcus is just a player. He's learned to really compete at a level that's important on a daily basis," Richey said. "Marcus and Jalen (Slawson), your starting (No.) 4 and 5 guys, go 16-for-16 from the free throw line. Marcus has bought into doing the hard things you've got to do so you can do the things you want to do."

Furman also had five different players in the scoring column less than six minutes into Saturday's game. Seven different Paladins finished with at least seven points.

"Greensboro definitely had great size like Mercer, but it played a lot slower. One thing we talked about in this game was trying to push the tempo and set the rules of engagement," Bothwell said. "We were able to win on Wednesday, but we don't really like to play in the 50-possession type of games. I feel like today, it was faster and more in our favor."

Mercer cut Furman's 20-point lead down to 70-61 with 2:48 left, but Slawson made a pair of free throws on the Paladins' ensuing possession. After a turnover by the Bears, Slawson then found Bothwell for a three-pointer that sealed the win with 1:34 left.

Slawson finished with 12 points, five rebounds, three steals and three blocks. Joe Anderson was the other Paladin in double figures as he came off the bench to score 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting for three. It's the third time in the last four games that Anderson has established a new career-high in scoring.

Anderson's minutes and outside shots were vital as Alex Hunter got into a bit of foul trouble. The Paladins didn't miss a beat when Anderson subbed in for Hunter. Hunter finished with nine points and five assists and made 3-of-7 three-pointers to currently rank second nationally with 64 threes.

"Alex has been a great leader and helped me a ton. Every time he's in the gym, he brings me in with him," Anderson said. "He's always making sure that I'm doing what he's doing and he's like the hardest worker I know. So I think coaches have trust that when he goes out, I can go in a do a little bit as good as him."

Furman returns to action at Timmons Arena Wednesday when it hosts East Tennessee State at 7 p.m.

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