|Jalen Slawson had a team-high 17 points before leaving with an injury in Furman's
91-55 win over North Greenville Monday. Photo courtesy of Furman
After a glitzy season-opening win over North Greenville in which Furman set single-game records for three-pointers (22) and assists (34) last November, Monday's season opener was more workmanlike but achieved the same goal. Six Paladins scored in double figures as Furman cruised past North Greenville, 91-55, at Timmons Arena.
On a night where the Paladins made just 5-of-25 three-pointers, they still managed to shoot 53.7 percent from the field as they made 31-of-42 shots inside the arc. Furman finished with 58 points in the paint, 42 points from the bench and 25 points off 21 Crusader turnovers. Jalen Slawson led the way with 17 points and three steals, but left at the 17:33 mark of the second half and didn't return.
Slawson was fouled on a drive to the basket, but immediately grabbed his right hand in pain. He stayed in to make 1-of-2 free throws, but exited at the next dead ball. Slawson went to the locker room and didn't return to the bench until there were only about three minutes left in the game.
"We don't have a lot of details on Slawson at this point," Furman coach Bob Richey said during the postgame press conference. "We will just have to see what comes of it.
"Last year in this game, we couldn't miss. Clearly that wasn't the case tonight, but it was good to see us keep our defensive intensity up for the most part. We shot 60 percent from the floor in the second half even though we shot just 23 percent from three. It's good for us to understand that there's going to be some nights when you're not making them and you've got to go generate baskets other ways."
Things got off to a slow start as Furman led 14-12 with less than 12 minutes left in the first half before Slawson and Mike Bothwell took command. Slawson started a 16-0 run on a jumper and capped it with a thunderous dunk off a steal with 3:48 left. Mike Bothwell had seven points in the run and also had an assist on perhaps the play of the night. Bothwell made an alley-oop pass that both Slawson and freshman Ben VanderWal went up for. VanderWal the lead man on the fast break and he made the catch and slammed it home for his first collegiate points.
After the Paladins took a 37-19 lead into halftime, Slawson gave Furman its biggest lead to that point of the night on a three-point play to open the second half. Bothwell hit a layup one minute later to push the lead to 23 before Slawson's injury on Furman's next possession.
"I think we came out and settled for some quick shots. We kind of didn't have an idea of how they were going to play us defensively. I think there was some opening night jitters and people stepping in to new roles," Bothwell said. "We eventually settled in, started getting to the paint more and guys started finishing at the rim."
While the Paladins were in control, others still needed to step up when Slawson left and that's what happened. Garrett Hien grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds before fouling out with 3:03 left. Tyrese Hughey scored a career-high 15 points in 18 minutes off the bench. And then there was VanderWal, who made quite an impression in his debut.
VanderWal finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and two steals and flashed all facets of his game over a 20-second stretch of the second half. The 6-7 freshman grabbed a rebound at the 12:26 mark and had an assist on Hughey's jumper in the paint six seconds later. Eleven seconds later, VanderWal made a steal near midcourt and had a clear path to the bucket for another dunk. That forced a North Greenville timeout with 12:06 left as Furman pushed the lead to 57-32.
"He's a player. He does a lot of different things and we can move him around. We can play him at the three or the four," Richey said. "He's one of those guys that's typically in the right spot. A month ago, I didn't know if he was going to play or redshirt and he really just took off once we started practicing every day.
"Early in camp, it was like 'maybe he will play,' and then it was like 'oh yeah, he's definitely playing.' He's got a unique confidence about him, but it's earned. He cares about all the small things."
Bothwell finished with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the floor, including 2-of-3 on threes. Marcus Foster had 11 points, five rebounds, two steals and no turnovers. Wake Forest transfer Carter Whitt had 10 points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists off the bench. Joe Anderson led the Paladins in assists with a career-high six in 19 minutes off the bench. While J.P. Pegues didn't score, he had three assists and received praise from Richey for how he handled his first game as starting point guard.
Next up for Furman is a showdown with another top mid-major program Friday when the Paladins host Belmont at 7 p.m.