Furman headed out on the road for its first road game of the 2021-22 season, hoping to give the Southern Conference another early-season win over an ACC foe, matching what The Citadel had already done to open the season against Pittsburgh.
The Paladins headed to KFC Yum Center, facing quite a challenge, looking to snap a streak of 59-straight wins by the Cardinals in the month of November in non-conference games, which included a 46-0 record inside the Yum Center. Both records would be snapped Friday night, as Furman handed Louisville its first home non-conference loss in November since 1972.
The Paladins would not be daunted by such a challenge, however, as the Paladins in recent seasons had gone toe-to-toe with the likes of nationally-ranked Tennessee, Michigan, Auburn and Alabama, and even knocked off a Villanova in Nov. of 2018, which eventually led to a national ranking.
How it Happened:
Senior and preseason All-SoCon selection Mike Bothwell scored 30 points, while Garrett Hien added a career-high 18 and Alex Hunter finished with 17, as Furman knocked off its first ACC opponent since Dec. 4, 2000, defeating Louisville, 80-72, in overtime Friday night at the KFC Yum Center.
Furman last knocked off an ACC opponent on the road back on Dec. 4, 2000, when the Paladins went to Florida State and claimed a 79-74 win in Tallahassee.
The win sees the Paladins improve to 2-0 on the young season, while ACC preseason No. 6 pick Louisville dropped to 1-1 overall. It marked Louisville’s first loss in a non-conference game in the month of November for the first ever at the Yum Center, as the Cardinals dropped to 46-1 all-time since the facility opened.
Although Slawson would end up struggling on the offensive end of the floor and was saddled with four fouls for a large majority of the second half and overtime, it was his toughness that helped personify Furman’s grit and toughness in the contest, especially on the defensive end of the floor, as he added a pair of key steals and two blocks to help be a big part of a collective defensive performance that held the Cardinals to just 36.2% (25-of-69) shooting for the night.
Slawson, a senior from Summerville, S.C., scored just five points on just 1-of-6 shooting from the field, but his nine boards would fuel Furman’s 43-41 edge on the backboards against a much bigger Louisville front line.
As you might expect from a trio of players that have a combined 168 starts in their respective Paladin careers, it was the senior trio of Hunter, Bothwell and Jalen Slawson that helped the Paladins take as much as an 11-point lead in the opening half midway through the frame, with the trio scoring a combined 23 of Furman’s 35 points in the opening half of play.
However, after the Paladins assumed what was a 21-10 lead following a Mike Bothwell triple, the Cardinals would control the latter part of the opening half of play, as Louisville slowly chipped away at the Furman advantage, as the Cardinals would be sparked by Marshall transfer Jarrod West who scored five points in a 10-5 run by the Cardinals, with Louisville cutting the Furman lead in half, at 26-21, prompting a Bob Richey timeout.
From there, the Cardinals would out-score the Paladins 18-10 over the remaining 8:27 of the opening half, with a pair of assists from Western Carolina transfer Mason Faulkner, with the last going to Cardinals 6-3 guard Noah Locke, who converted the layup to give Louisville the brief 32-30 lead.
Furman answered however, and it was sophomore Garrett Hien’s top of the key triple that helped give Furman the lead back briefly once again, at 33-32, with 2:53 remaining in the half. Furman’s final bucket of the half came from Joe Anderson, as his layup tied the game, 35-35, with 2:28 left in the half.
However, the Cardinals closed the half with buckets from Locke, as Louisville went to the half with a 39-35 advantage.
Early in the second half, Furman’s leading scorer and all-conference guard Bothwell, who led the Paladins with 10 first-half points, picked up his third foul less than 90 seconds into the frame, forcing him to the bench.
The Cardinals would eventually assume the advantage as a result, taking their largest lead of the night to that points (41-35) following a Dre’ Davis layup with 17:04 left. However, Furman’s Conley Garrison answered with a triple on the other end, getting the Paladins within a possession (41-38) once again with 16:33 left. That would remain the score at the first media timeout of the half and it might have just been one of the most important shots of the game for the Paladins.
After Davis’ layup gave the Cardinals their biggest lead of the night at six, the Paladins would never let the Louisville lead get beyond five points the remainder of the game, as the Cardinals looked to take control of the game back taking a pair of five-point advantages in the game, but Furman seemingly always brought the game back.
With the Cardinals leading 42-38 following a 15:23 left following a Jarrod West foul shot, Furman and Bothwell would go on a 9-0 run, fueled by aggression on the offensive end and letting that aggression get it to the charity stripe.
Six foul from Bothwell (4-of-4), Slawson (1-of-2) and Marcus Foster (1-of-2) helped the Paladins take a 44-42 lead with 13:15 remaining. Following a missed layup by Mason Faulkner on the other end, Bothwell answered with a three from the right corner to give the Paladins a 47-42 lead with 12:55 remaining and was one of seven lead changes that would span the two halves and overtime.
Following a Cardinals 13-6 run over the next five minutes, Louisville seemed to resume control of the contest on a Dre Davis foul shot on the back end of a two shot foul, which gave the Cardinals a 55-53 lead with 7:46 remaining following Slawson’s fourth personal foul.
The Cardinals would eventually stretch its two point lead to five points (61-56) following a fourth foul whistled against Hien, as Malik Williams connected on 1-of-2 from the stripe to give Louisville the five-point edge with 5:06 left.
Hunter answered with a huge three on the other end to get the Paladins back within a bucket (61-59) with 4:30 left.
Following a foul by Hunter, Louisville point guard Mason Faulkner knocked down a pair of bonus foul shots to stretch the Louisville lead back to four, but Hunter had yet another answer on a triple, as his second three got Furman to within a point again, at 63-62, with just under four minutes left.
Four-straight points on a Davis layup and a West jumper gave Louisville a five-point edge, at 67-62, with 2:43 left. However, Furman’s play on the boards and defensive end for the final stretch would allow the Paladins to score the final five points of regulation to force overtime.
Two Bothwell foul shots and a three-point play the old-fashioned way from Hien with 1:04 remaining allowed Furman the opportunity to extend the game. From there, the Paladins even had a chance to win the game with five seconds remaining following a missed triple by Cardinals guard Locke.
That would allow the Paladins to have a chance to have a final shot, but Bothwell’s potential game-winner was no good with 5.7 seconds remaining. The game would eventually need five more minutes to be decided.
Layups by Alex Hunter and Garrett Hien, and another turnaround jumper from Hien as the shot-clock buzzer sounded from the top of the key with 1:41 remaining gave the Paladins a 76-69 lead, and that moment in the game proved to be decisive.