Saturday, November 19, 2022

Another big hole leads to another Furman loss

J.P. Pegues had a career-high 20 points and five assists in Furman's
82-77 loss to Old Dominion Friday. Photo courtesy of Furman

CHARLESTON - For the second time in as many days at the Shriners Children's Charleston Classic, Furman's opponent built a 20-point lead and withstood a rally. After Penn State shot the lights out in the first half Thursday in building a 21-point lead, Old Dominion shot the lights out in both halves Friday to knock off the Paladins, 82-77.

In Thursday's opening game of the tournament, Furman (2-2) used a rebounding advantage to help trim Penn State's big lead down to one and had three chances at a game-tying three-pointer in the final minute. But on Friday, ODU owned the glass by a margin of 36-22. Of course, it's kind of hard to get rebounds when the opponent doesn't miss. The Monarchs (3-2) made 14-of-24 shots (58.3 percent) in the first half and then made 17-of-27 (70.8) in the second half.

The Paladins trailed by 20 with less than nine minutes to play Friday before flipping a switch defensively. Utilizing a full-court press, Furman forced turnovers and rallied. But unlike Thursday, there were never any potential tying shots as it could never get the lead to less than four. Also unlike Thursday, there was a much more subdued postgame locker room after a five-point loss to a Sun Belt team as opposed to Thursday's five-point loss to a Big Ten team.

"We're just not a team right now that embraces the importance and urgency of the defensive end of the floor consistently enough," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "We've had two scrimmages where we gave up 80 points and today we gave up 80. You're just not going to win games giving up 80 points and you can't expect to.

"They competed harder than we did today and that's the most disappointing thing."

While ODU shot nearly 60 percent in the first half and the Paladins shot 34.6 percent, it was still just a 34-27 game at the break. Furman had chances to make it tighter, but after Tyrese Hughey's layup with 7:23 left it made just two of its last 12 shots of the half.

"We've played eight halves of basketball with four mediocre to bad first halves and four decent second halves. I wouldn't say today was a decent second half even though we scored 50," Richey said. "We're just not coming out from the start, sitting down and saying, 'look, this is how we have to be.'

"We've got some key players that just don't have the discipline right now defensively. ... That's on me though. If I've got them out there and they're not doing it, that's for me to correct. This team can still be really, really good, but today is a disappointing game."

That end of the first half futility was part of a nine-and-a-half minute span in which the Paladins never made consecutive shots. There was also an eight-and-a-half minute stretch like that in the second half during which the Monarchs pushed their lead to 20. Meanwhile, ODU never missed more than two consecutive shots the entire game. The Monarchs made their first five shots of the second half, made five straight in the middle of the second half and made their last five shots of the game.

A play that summed up the day came early in the second half when Mike Bothwell drove in for a tough layup in one of those rare hot spurts when Furman made three consecutive shots. With no one in his face or really near him at all after the layup, Bothwell yelled and got called for the first technical of his career. ODU went on a 19-7 run over the next five-and-a-half minutes to push the lead to 63-44.

"I was just saying 'and one' trying to fire up our team. I wasn't trying to show up anyone," Bothwell said. "Today, I think our timidness kind of sparked their confidence."

The Monarchs lead reached 20 with 8:41 left before Furman went on a 15-2 run to cut the lead to 69-62 with 5:15 remaining on a Marcus Foster jumper. J.P. Pegues' driving layup sliced ODU's lead to 73-66 with 2:20 left before the Monarchs deflated whatever air was left in Furman's balloon. ODU's Ben Stanley made one free throw and missed the second, but the Monarchs got the offensive rebound and scored off it to push the lead to 10 with 1:42 left.

Bothwell hit a three, but Stanley answered with a dunk. Jalen Slawson hit a three, but ODU's Chaunce Jenkins answered with a jumper in the paint. Pegues hit a long three to cut the lead to 81-77 with 10 seconds left, but that wrapped up the Paladins' scoring.

"I'm proud about what I did offensively, but I feel like I could've done a better job of leading the team defensively," Pegues said. "They just bully-balled us. They were the more aggressive team."

Bothwell had 23 points, five assists and two steals to lead Furman, while Pegues had a career-high 20 points and five assists. Slawson finished with 15 points, four assists and four steals, but had six of Furman's 11 turnovers. Foster was the lone other Paladin in double figures with 10 points.

After a career-high day of 15 points and 11 rebounds on Thursday, Hughey only took one shot in 10 minutes off the bench Friday as he was saddled with four fouls. Furman had just five bench points as a team.

"Our two guards did all we could ask of them today. They had 43 points and 10 assists. We can't ask them to do everything," Richey said. "At some point, somebody's going to have to help them.

"J.P. was definitely a positive, which was no surprise to me. I don't think people have enough patience in the fact that this is a new role for him. He's had to get comfortable in that role. The best thing about what J.P. did today was that he fought. He wasn't timid."

Furman will wrap up play at the tournament Sunday at 10:30 a.m. The Paladins will take on South Carolina in the seventh-place game.

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