Saturday, February 12, 2022

Another big Furman rally falls just short

Conley Garrison had 14 points and six rebounds in Furman's
75-71 loss at ETSU Monday. Photo courtesy of Furman

For the second consecutive game, the Furman men's basketball team managed to dig itself out of a deep hole but was left too drained by the climb to finish the job. The Paladins rallied from an 18-point deficit to take a one-point lead with 5:18 left at East Tennessee State Monday night, but only scored one more time as the Buccaneers pulled out a 75-71 win.

After a five-game winning streak in which Furman steamrolled its competition, the Paladins take back-to-back close losses into Saturday's Southern Conference showdown that's been circled all season. Second-place Furman (17-9, 9-4) hosts first-place Chattanooga (21-5, 11-2) at 2 p.m. at Timmons Arena.

Monday it seemed as if the odds finally caught up in favor of an ETSU team that had lost five straight, but by a combined total of just 15 points. It was a Bucs team that led Furman for most of the night in Greenville earlier this season before the Paladins went on a 9-0 run over the final three minutes for a nine-point win. In Monday's rematch, David Sloan's three-pointer with 5:58 left in the opening half staked ETSU to a 36-18 lead. At that point, the Bucs were 12-of-17 from the floor, including 7-of-10 on three-pointers.

"They have as much raw talent as anyone in this league. It's a make-miss game and they came out and made everything. We had a little bit to do with that, but also the place was packed and it was rocking. Our kids consistently go in these venues where there's more fans watching than they have at their place ... and they've got to learn to deal with it," Furman coach Bob Richey said Thursday. "Give our guys credit for bouncing all the way back, but the energy that had to be put forth to do all that ... you find yourself in that situation again and you come up a little bit short."

After playing Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout the league schedule, Monday's game was shifted from an originally scheduled Wednesday to be televised by ESPNU. That turned out to be less than ideal for the Paladins, coming off the heartbreaking 56-54 loss to UNCG two days earlier.

"You go right to Sunday and you have to turn the page quickly, but the residue is still there. As much as you would say 'we don't want to (think about the UNCG loss),' there's still a little bit of that impact," Richey said. "It's not super complicated. Look at the first two games with UNCG and ETSU. The games weren't completely different than these last two. Either game could've gone either way.

"You're not just going to make all those shots we'd been making (during the winning streak). It was a little bit of a shock effect at the Well ... when we start off missing all these shots. We missed 19 uncontested threes. That's hard for us to do."

Furman trailed 52-37 with 16:27 left in Monday's game when it went on a 17-2 run over the next five minutes. Conley Garrison's three-pointer with 11:28 left capped the run and tied the game 54-54. The were two more ties over the next few minutes before Mike Bothwell's layup with 7:46 left gave the Paladins their first lead of the night at 64-63.

With 5:18 left, Jalen Slawson raced down the court and caught a beautiful long pass from Bothwell for a layup to give Furman a 68-67 lead. But the Paladins didn't score again until Alex Hunter's three-pointer with 2.9 seconds left that only cut ETSU's lead in half.

Those final five minutes offered a national television audience a glimpse of what turned out to be a pretty rotten week of officiating in the SoCon. After a questionable foul call on Garrett Hien allowed ETSU to take a 69-68 lead on a free throw with 3:01 left, Slawson was whistled for a horrific charge call on Furman's ensuing possession. That negated Slawson's layup which would've put Furman back in front.

With 1:24 left, it appeared that Hunter had collected a defensive rebound as he jumped to save a loose ball going out of bounds to Marcus Foster. Officials ruled the ball hit out of bounds before Hunter saved it and stuck with the ruling after a video review. After retaining possession, the Bucs got a layup to go up 71-68. On Furman's ensuing possession, another charge call went against Slawson wiping out another layup and the Paladins had more fouls in those last two minutes (three) than ETSU did in the second half (two) at that point.

It was still 71-68 with 26.5 seconds left when Hien grabbed an offensive rebound and signaled for a timeout as he hit the ground. The timeout wasn't granted however and and Hien was called for traveling. There was no video review I suppose because one would assume three officials would be able to see someone with the ball calling a timeout.

Slawson and Bothwell each scored 15 points to lead Furman. Slawson also had six rebounds, three assists and three blocks. Garrison finished with 14 points, six rebounds and three assists, while Foster and Hien each scored 10. The Paladins made 4-of-6 free throws, while ETSU made 19-of-25. 

"The more we look into causation, the more that would take away from solution. We've got to move on to the next," Richey said. "We've got Chattanooga coming to our place. We felt like we had a chance to win up there and we've got to go protect home court. It's going to be nice to be back in Timmons. It's our only league game on a Saturday in Timmons all year.

"Seven days ago, everybody thought we were going to the Final Four. Now all of sudden it sounds like we're finishing last in the Southern Conference, but that's just the nature of it. ... We're not going up to Asheville and making every shot in three games. So for us to have to work through this now, I think it could end up being a positive if we handle it correctly."

Ledarrius Brewer had a game-high 20 points, 19 of which came in the first half, 10 rebounds and four assists to lead the Bucs (13-13, 5-8).

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