Furman gets back on the winning track at USC Upstate

Alex Hunter scored a career-high 24 points in Furman’s 87-77 win at Upstate

Furman 87, Upstate 77

On a day when Marcus Foster drew his first start of the 2021-22 season, Furman would respond both offensively and defensively to get an 87-77 win over USC Upstate in front of a pro-Furman crowd on-hand at the G.B. Hodge Center.

The win saw the Paladins improve to 4-2 overall this season, while Upstate fell to 2-4. Furman improved to 5-0 all-time against the Spartans, and 3-0 all-time at the G.B. Hodge Center. 

Furman got career high scoring efforts from Alex Hunter (24 pts) and the aforementioned Foster (15), who also added a career-high for rebounds (10), completing a double-double effort. 

Hunter finished the contest making 9-of-13 shots from the field, which included a 6-for-9 from three-point range, as the senior from Raleigh, N.C., scored all but four of his points in the opening half, connecting all six of his triples in the opening half. 

Hunter was responsible for nearly half the Paladins three-point field goals in the contest, connecting on six of Furman’s total 13 triples. For the game, the Paladins shot 46.4% (13-of-28) from three-point land. The Paladins also shot the ball at a 55.0% clip (33-of-60) for the game, while the Spartans shot 50.8% (31-of-61) from the field, while Upstate connected on 50% (9-of-18) from beyond the arc.

The game with a bit of a scare for Furman, however, which saw its star big man go down in the second half, as Jalen Slawson, who finished with 18 points, went down with what appeared to be a knee injury. It was ruled to have in fact been nothing serious involving the knee following the game, however, he will be day-to-day. 

Slawson finished the contest by connecting on 6-of-8 from the field and 2-for-3 from three-point range, with 16 of those points coming in the opening half of play. He also added three steals and dished out three assists, while pulling down four rebounds in the win. 

The only other Paladin finishing in double figures in the contest was Mike Bothwell, who rebounded from a seven-point effort against Navy the last time out to post 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting from the field, including 1-of-4 from three-point land. Garrett Hien dished out a career-high five assists for the Paladins. 

The Paladins held a 31-27 advantage on the glass, while holding advantages in points in the paint (18-12), fast-break points (13-11), and total assists (18-16). Furman and Upstate tied, 40-40, on points in the paint, while the Spartans had a significant advantage in points in the paint (40-12). Furman caused Upstate to turn the ball over 20 times, while committing 14 turnovers in the win. 

The Spartans had four players finish in double figures, led by Nick Alves’ 16 points, while freshman guard Jordan Gainey added 13. Dalvin White and Bryson Mozone rounded out the double-figure scorers for the Spartans, with 11 points apiece. 

How it Happened:

Furman would lead by as 25 points a little over midway through the second half, and would end up winning by double digits after Upstate scored the final 10 points of the contest, making the score seem a little closer and more competitive than it actually was for much of the evening. 

Furman appeared to be emotionally invested in the well-being of its teammate, Slawson, who went down with an injury a little over midway through the second half, and was in obvious pain. According to head coach Bob Richey in the postgame interview, it also affected the Paladins’ defensive rotation in certain situations. 

While Slawson’s injury turned out to be only minor in nature, his leadership and affect on this edition of the Furman Paladin basketball team was evident on the faces of each of his teammates.

When Slawson was forced to the sidelines, both Garrett Hien and Alex Williams stepped up and gave the Paladins some important minutes in the paint. Hien finished the contest with a career-high five assists, while Williams connected on both of his three-points shots to finish with six points. 

Unlike the previous two games, Furman came out and turned up the heat on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor from the outset of the contest, which led to an early 20-4 lead following a three-pointer off an early Upstate turnover, forcing a Spartans timeout with 14:17 remaining in the frame.  

From that point forward, the Paladins would never look back en route to taking a 20-point lead into the halftime locker room following a jumper in the paint by Slawson with eight seconds remaining. 

Following a triple from the corner by Quentin Hodge, the Spartans had cut the Furman lead to just 13 points (45-32) with 2:15 remaining in the opening half. However, the Paladins would score the final seven points of the half on a jumper and a three-pointer from Hunter, and the aforementioned jumper in the lane by Slawson. 

While the Paladins scored the final three buckets of the half, it was also three-straight stops on the defensive end, which helped Furman head into the locker room with all the momentum, which was highlighted by a Foster block. 

The second half would see more of the Paladins’ dominance in the early going. The lead hovered around 15-21 points in the opening five minutes of the half, with the Spartans not able to make any discernible difference in the margin.

Layups by Foster and Conley Garrison got the Paladin lead to 21 points inside the opening five minutes of the frame, with Foster’s layup sending the Paladins to the first media timeout of the second half with a 65-44 lead. 

Just 45 seconds later, a Foster three would increase the Furman lead to 24 points, at 68-44, with 15:25 remaining. Buckets by Alves and White would eventually get the Spartans back to within 20 with exactly 14 minutes to play. 

Leading 76-53 with just over nine-and-a-half minutes remaining, Slawson took a spill driving hard down the paint before Hodge rotated over late to try and take a charge late before Slawson could adjust and the two collided, with the senior from Summerville, S.C., taking the worst of the injury, although more for the way he landed after the contact rather than the contact itself. 

After being checked out by the trainers, Slawson was helped to the sidelines in noticeable pain. Garrett Hien was subbed in to take the two foul shots. He connected on both, giving the Paladins their largest lead of the night, at 78-53, with 9:36 remaining.

Five-and-a-half minutes later, a Bothwell jumper gave the Paladins their final 20 point lead of the game, at 87-67, as Furman did not score for the final 4:08 of the contest, and Upstate finished the game on a 10-0 run to set the final margin. 

Next Time Out:

Furman will head to High Point to take on the Tubby Smith-led Panthers on Tuesday night. The late November meeting between the Paladins and Panthers will mark just the third all-time meeting between the two, with Furman leading the all-time series, 2-0.

Furman claimed a 58-45 win over the Panthers back during the 2004-05 season, with that win coming at High Point.

The Paladins also claimed a 98-87 win over the Panthers at Timmons Arena during the 2003-04 season. It will be Furman’s first trip to the Quebein Center for the first time since the arena opened back during the 2018-19 season, and the venue is one of the nicer home venues in the Big South Conference. 

Postgame Audio:

Bob Richey following Upstate win
Marcus Foster following the Upstate win

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