Wednesday, November 23, 2022

After 12-year wait, Paladins crush USC again

Garrett Hien had a career-high 20 points off the bench in Furman's
79-60 win over South Carolina. Photo courtesy of Furman

Prior to this men's basketball season, the last time Furman faced South Carolina was Dec. 22, 2010 when Amu Saaka's 20-point performance led the Paladins to a 91-75 victory at Timmons Arena. After what Furman did to the Gamecocks Sunday in Charleston, I wouldn't anticipate anything less than another 12-year wait for a 127th meeting in the series that dates back to 1908.

Coming off the bench for the first time this season, Garrett Hien scored a career-high 20 points in 26 minutes and Furman shot 57.7 percent in the second half to roll over USC, 79-60, on the final day of the Shriners Children's Charleston Classic at T.D. Arena. The Paladins (3-2) made 12-of-27 three-pointers (44.4 percent) to salvage their final game at the tournament. That included a career-high 3-of-4 from three for the 6-foot-9 Hien, who had struggled in the first two games of the tournament.

"Garrett's got unbelievable intent and he's Furman through and through," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "On Sunday, you saw him run the floor a little bit harder, play with a little bit more spirit. I've told him, 'look, you're not going to be the biggest guy down there. You've got to use your speed and skill to your advantage.' He did that Sunday.

"Beating an SEC school is something we don't take lightly. Any power-five win is a great win."

While Furman's first two games of the tournament took a similar route - the Paladins almost rallying from a 20-point deficit only to lose by five - that second loss on Friday against Old Dominion dealt a more somber mood than the loss to Penn State did on Thursday.

As Richey pointed out following Friday's game, it's the first time the Paladins had lost on back-to-back days in his tenure. That feeling persuaded Richey to cancel Saturday's off-day practice to "kind of hit the reset button."

"We didn't even walk in the gym on Saturday. We watched film and had a walk-through," Richey said. "The whole focus for us was getting back to having a good competitive spirit with a good, connected energy.

"I thought we did both those things well Sunday. We had 22 assists, which is always something that's critical for us. And the big thing was we turned them over and didn't give them second-chance shots. Trying to increase our possessions and decrease theirs was a huge part of the game plan."

Tyrese Hughey and Ben VanderWal replaced Hien and Marcus Foster in the starting lineup Sunday. The move paid off in numerous ways. Hughey, who had a career-high day in points (15) and rebounds (11) Thursday before only trying one shot in 10 minutes as he was saddled with foul trouble Friday, scored Furman's first seven points Sunday. That kept the Paladins in the game early on as freshman sensation G.G. Jackson led the Gamecocks to an 11-4 lead out of the gate.

That's when Foster became a factor. Foster tied the game 18-18 on a 3-pointer with 11:33 left in the half. Hien grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds on Furman's next possession, which led to a Jalen Slawson bucket as the Paladins took the lead for good. That three by Foster started a 15-0 run as VanderWal hit a pair of free throws with 6:35 left in the half to push the lead to 30-18.

Where Foster really made his mark though was on the defensive end of the court. While Jackson led USC (2-3) with 19 points, he had only three points on 1-of-6 shooting over the final 15:42 of the game as Furman pulled away. After the Gamecocks cut the lead to eight with 13:18 left, a steal by Foster led to a three-pointer by Hughey a minute later and the Paladins led by double figures the rest of the way. Furman outscored USC by 23 during Foster's 28:51 on the floor.

"Marcus' defense on G.G. was just incredible in that second half. ... Those guys (Foster and Hien) handled it great. Without practicing, I wanted to do something to shake up the energy a little bit," Richey said. "There's a little bit of trend in college basketball to bring some experience and firepower off the bench because a lot of times, you're injecting guys that can be key contributors while other people are going through their second line of rotation."

In the loss to ODU, Mike Bothwell and J.P. Pegues combined for 43 points and 10 assists to account for the majority of Furman's 77 points. Richey stressed that his backcourt can't be asked to do everything. Against USC, it was clear that the Paladins got the message. Hien was one of four Paladins in double figures. Slawson had 14 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two blocks. Hughey finished with 12 points, while Bothwell had 11 points, a career-high eight assists, five rebounds and two steals.

Pegues had nine points and five rebounds, while Foster finished with eight points. Eight of the nine Paladins who played had at least one steal. Furman forced 17 turnovers, outscored the Gamecocks 23-4 in points off those, outrebounded USC 34-24, and had 22 assists on 30 made field goals.

While a Sunday morning, seventh-place game of an eight-team tournament was a less than ideal way to face USC, Richey - a South Carolina native - savored the chance. While the Paladins had not faced the Gamecocks in 12 years, it's been nine years since they've played Clemson. In eight years from the 2006-07 season to the 2013-14 season, Furman faced the Tigers six times. Ever since the Paladins "got good," they haven't been able to get either of the two state power-five programs on the regular schedule.

"It's an SEC school, a power-five school. If you look at facilities, budget, resources, it's not close. But at the end of the day, we want to be an elite mid-major program that's recognized as one of the best in the state," Richey said. "It's hard for us to get those opportunities. We would love to get them. I think it's healthy for us to be able to showcase basketball in the state, but we've got to be willing to play one another.

"For me, growing up in Columbia and having never had the chance to compete against them as an assistant or a head coach, Sunday was pretty neat."

Honors for Bothwell, Slawson

Even though Furman went 1-2 at the tournament, Bothwell shined enough that he was selected as the Southern Conference's Player of the Week. He averaged 20 points, 5.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game in Charleston and was also named to the All-Tournament team.

On Wednesday announced that Bothwell and Slawson were part of the 50-player Lou Henson Award watch list. The award is presented annually to the top mid-major player in the country. Bothwell and Slawson are two of four SoCon players on the list, as Samford's Ques Glover and Chattanooga's Jake Stephens also were selected.

Selvy inducted into Hall of Fame

Furman legend Frank Selvy, the only player ever to score 100 points in an NCAA game, was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City, Mo. Sunday. While Selvy's health did not allow him to travel to the ceremony, his wife Barbara spoke on his behalf there.

In conjunction with the celebration of Selvy's Hall of Fame honor, Furman announced that school's Male Student Athlete of the Year would now earn the "Frank Selvy Award." Selvy led Division I in scoring both as a junior with 29.5 points per game and as a senior (41.7 ppg). Most notably, Selvy scored a Division I-record 100 points on 41-of-66 shooting against Newberry on Feb. 13, 1954, at Textile Hall in downtown Greenville.

A two-time Southern Conference Player of the Year selection, three-time first team All-SoCon and All-America choice, including consensus All-America and United Press National Player of the Year pick in 1954, he was a first round selection in the 1954 NBA Draft by the Baltimore Bullets. Selvy made two NBA All-Star Teams over a nine-year pro career that was interrupted by three years of military service.

"Frank's record-breaking accomplishments throughout his career and 100-point game in 1954 are legendary in the sport of basketball and the city of Greenville," Furman athletic direction Jason Donnelly said. "In recognition of Frank's legacy and impact, Furman athletics is excited to name the Male Student Athlete of Year the "Frank Selvy Award" from this day forward."

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