Thursday, November 17, 2022

Furman rally falls short in Charleston opener

Tyrese Hughey had career-highs in points (15) and rebounds (11) in
Furman's 73-68 loss to Penn State Thursday. Photo courtesy of Furman

CHARLESTON - The last time Furman played in a neutral-site tournament, Mike Bothwell's three-point play in the final seconds lifted the Paladins to a one-point win over Texas-Arlington at Elon on the day before Thanksgiving in 2019. On Thursday afternoon at TD Arena, history did not repeat itself - twice.

Bothwell had two potential game-tying three-pointers rattle in-and-out no good in the final minute as Furman fell to Penn State, 73-68, in the opening round of the Shriners Children's Charleston Classic. The Paladins (2-1) move on to face Old Dominion in Friday's consolation round at approximately 2 p.m.

Bothwell, who's hit so many clutch shots in his terrific career, finished with a game-high 26 points. He also had six rebounds, four assists, no turnovers and nearly led Furman to an epic comeback as Penn State led by as many as 21 in the first half.

"Credit to Penn State. (Coach) Micah (Shrewsberry) has done a great job of turning that program around pretty quickly," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "They came out with a lot of confidence and we ran into a buzzsaw. They were making everything.

"I just went for the kill (at the end). I thought we needed to tie it up and we got a couple of great looks. Mike was hot and I'm always going to ride with Mike."

Furman actually jumped out to a 9-5 lead just more than four minutes in. But over the next nine minutes, Penn State went 15-of-17 from the floor. The Nittany Lions only had seven offensive rebounds all day, but they grabbed one after each of those two misses. That run turned a four-point deficit into a 41-21 Penn State lead with 6:44 left in the first half.

The Paladins began chipping away. The Nittany Lions had just three free throws and one made field goal the rest of the half to take a 46-29 lead at the break. Furman finally got the lead down to single digits at 63-54 on Jalen Slawson's dunk with 8:15 left. After a fantastic cross court pass from Slawson, Tyrese Hughey sliced the lead to 69-68 on a three-pointers with 1:48 left.

"We started switching everything (defensively) the last five minutes of the first half," Richey said. "That's what we did the entire second half and fortunately we found a great rhythm offensively. We gave ourselves a chance to get back in the game."

Furman could never make it back all the way though. With 59 seconds left and the Paladins trailing 71-68, Bothwell's open three-pointer at the top of the key went back rim, front rim, backboard and off.

It was still 71-68 when J.P. Pegues' three from the top of the key bounced off no good, but Tyrese Hughey grabbed the offensive rebound. Bothwell's next try from the top of the key went back rim, front rim, twirling on the base of the rim and off. Penn State got that rebound and Seth Lundy hit a pair of free throws to seal the win.

"The first shot was off a set we run in practice a lot. I hit the shot in practice, so I was confident," said Bothwell. "The second one, I definitely thought was going down. ... I've made a lot of tough (late) shots, but you can't make them all I guess.

"I feel like today was a game we will be able to use to push us through tough games in the future."

Hughey had the game of his collegiate life as he finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in 23 minutes off the bench. He helped Furman outrebound its Big Ten opponent, 40-32, including 14 offensive boards. Slawson finished with 10 points, seven assists, six rebounds and two blocks.

"Rebounding has been an emphasis all offseason. We know we're among the smallest teams in the country, so it's important," said Hughey. "If we miss a rebound (in practice), we've got to run. So it's been ingrained in us."

Lundy finished with 20 points and seven rebounds for Penn State (4-0), while Jalen Pickett had 20 points and seven assists.

In Thursday's second game, Virginia Tech downed Old Dominion, 75-71. Chaunce Jenkins had a game-high 24 points, six rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes off the bench for the Monarchs (2-2). ODU leading scorer Ben Stanley, who entered averaging 17.3 points per game, was held to eight points on 4-of-14 shooting.

"As a coach, on the sidelines you watch them hit everything and feel like it's an avalanche. To see your team stay in there and just be resilient, that's the sign of a good team," Richey said. "We're way past moral victories, but it does give you hope to see a team get down like that and not lay down.

"We will respond tomorrow. We've got to come out and fight."

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