Saturday, November 26, 2022

Foster sparks first-half blitz as Furman rolls

Marcus Foster had a career-high 22 points in Furman's 102-74
win over Tusculum Friday. Photo courtesy of Furman

All you needed to know about Furman's basketball game against Tusculum Friday could be summed up with one amazing stat. At the 14:56 mark of the first half, Tusculum had its third defensive rebound of the game. At the 19:06 mark of the second half, Tusculum had its fourth defensive rebound.

While it came against an overmatched Division II opponent - although Tusculum (2-0) is a high-scoring team ranked No. 7 in its region poll, the Paladins put on an absolute clinic during that near 16-minute run. Furman (4-2) made 18-of-20 field goals during that stretch and grabbed offensive rebounds that led to scores off both misses. That helped the Paladins cruise to a 102-74 win.

"We only missed eight shots in the first half, but got five offensive rebounds. ... That's something that we've really emphasized and (assistant) Coach (Tim) Johnson led the way with that," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "We know that's an area we had to be better in and so far this year, that's probably been one of the bright sides. ... We've been 19th in the country in defensive rebounding and that's playing two high-majors, a (Missouri) Valley school and a Sun Belt school. The Sun Belt team in Old Dominion was as physical as anybody.

"There's still some things we've got to do better, but I do think it's starting to show up in our identity."

Playing at home for the first time in two weeks on a Friday afternoon the day after Thanksgiving, the Paladins trailed 15-11 at the 13:44 mark. When Marcus Foster went to work, Furman's sluggish play suddenly stopped. While Foster scored a career-high 22 points, as usual his defense was the key to the Paladins' spurt.

It was still 15-11 when Foster grabbed an offensive rebound and drew a foul with 13:23 left. He made both free throws to start a 21-2 run over the next seven minutes. His three-pointer as time expired in the first half pushed Furman's lead to 57-27 at the break. The Paladins shot 73.3 percent in the opening half.

"Marcus was the one that stood out the most, not just in scoring but he led us in deflections today and he took the only charge called," Richey said. "I keep telling him how good he can be and how much better he can be. It's just a matter of how hard he plays. I've been proud of him. He's been warming up harder, turning the motor on and being ready to play."

Furman wasn't nearly as sharp in the second half, but never led by less than 23 the rest of the way. For the second consecutive game, eight different Paladins had at least one assist as the team finished with 24.

Like Foster, Jalen Slawson also had 22 points. Slawson also had 10 rebounds and five assists, while Foster also had seven rebounds. Mike Bothwell added 18 points, five assists and two steals, while Tyrese Hughey had 15 points and three steals. After missing all of last season with an injury, Jonny Lawrence knocked down a pair of threes for his first points since making 3-of-4 threes against The Citadel on Feb. 24, 2021. 

"I take pride in defense. That's one thing I want to leave my mark in, so I was just focused on not missing any assignments and staying active on the ball," said Foster, who came off the bench for the second consecutive game Friday. "I try to be a better leader on the defensive side of the ball to get our guys going."

Coming off a career-high 20-point game in the win over South Carolina, Garrett Hien didn't dress out for Friday's game due to a calf strain. Richey said Hien is day-to-day, but he him to return "sooner rather than later."

Furman will have its first true road game Tuesday when it plays at Appalachian State at 6:30 p.m. The Mountaineers (5-2), who put up 142 points in the season opener against Warren Wilson, will be coming off a 74-70 win at East Tennessee State on Wednesday.

"We enjoy playing high-level mid-major games and this one will be no different. I've got a lot of respect for (App State head coach) Dustin (Kerns)," Richey said. "He's a great coach of a great program. ... He will have his team ready to play."

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