Furman outlasts High Point in double OT thriller

Furman 74, High Point 70

John Michael-Wright shoots over Furman’s Mike Bothwell/photo courtesy of Tim Cowie and High Point athletics

It’s been hard to pinpoint a definitive difference in the fifth edition of Furman basketball under the direction of Bob Richey, however, an early clue to the grit and toughness of this edition of this particular Paladin team could be observed with one view of the stats sheet following Furman’s overtime win at Louisville. 

That one definitive statistical category most equate directly with toughness—rebounding. In that 80-72 triumph in overtime over the Cardinals, perhaps second only second in shock value to the final score to those that more than just casual fans is the fact that the Paladins outrebounded the bigger, and supposedly stronger ACC team, 43-41. 

Monday night’s double-overtime, 74-70, win at High Point saw the Paladins rip down a whopping 53 rebounds, which included 18 on the offensive end of the floor. 

To notch its fifth win in seven outings this season, Furman and head coach Bob Richey had to rely on strong defense down the stretch and clutch offensive shots in big moments from Mike Bothwell to overcome a pesky High Point squad at the state-of-the art  Quebein Center, which is in its second year of operation and is one of the best mid-major arenas in this part of the country.

The win, which came in Furman’s third overtime game of four road games this season, saw the Paladins improve to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in OT games. The loss dropped the Tubby Smith-led High Point Panthers to 3-4.

The Paladins were led for a second-straight game by Alex Hunter, who scored 18 points to lead five Paladins in double figures, including a pair of double-doubles from both Jalen Slawson (12 pts, 14 rebs) and Marcus Foster (15 pts, 14 rebs), accounting for 28 of the 53 boards in the contest. 

On a night when neither team would use this particular offensive display for any instructional coaching videos on execution, particularly shooting wise, the Paladins knocked down the big shots when needed. Furman connected on 38.0% (27-of-71) from the field, including just 25.9% (7-of-27) from the three-point line. 

Hunter would be the first to tell you it wasn’t his best shooting night, but like the theme of the night for Furman offensively, when the Paladins needed a bucket, it was usually Hunter or Bothwell that came through and delivered them. 

The graduate senior finished off an outstanding opening month of the season by having to find his shot  on a night when they weren’t falling more often than not, as he connected on just 6-of-18 shots from the field, including just 3-for-13 from three-point range. He also dished out a pair of assists and had one steal. 

Hunter went an uncharacteristic 3-of-6 from the line. However, through the first month of the season, it’d be hard to argue there’s been a better player or model of consistency in the SoCon, and he’s started the season by scoring in double figures in six of his first seven games out in a season he decided to return and take a chance on. It’s turning out splendidly thus far. Stay tuned. 

It was Foster’s second-straight start, and he followed suit with his second-straight double-double. While he matched his career-high in points on a 6-of-11 shooting performance from the field, his 14 boards were four more than his previous career-high of 10 last time out in the Hub City. Foster was just 3-for-7 from the line. 

Slawson, who went down with a quad injury in Saturday’s win at Upstate, returned maybe a little sooner than some may have expected, and added to his all-around strong effort by handing out four assists, blocking three shots and recording a pair of steals prior to fouling out in the first overtime. He connected on 3-of-8 shots from the field and finished 6-for-10 from the charity stripe.

Conley Garrison finished off another stellar performance to cap his opening month in a Paladin uniform as a graduate transfer, and was another major reason the Paladins would walk away from an opponent’s floor with a win that they had to fight like hell to get.

He’s done those little things in key moments. The three in the corner against Louisville early in the second half when the Paladins trailed by six (41-35), and the game teetering on the brink of swinging the way of a Louisville team that had won 59-straight non-conference November home games, was one of those moments.

That particular trifecta in game two established Furman’s presence and aggression for the remainder of the night. 

Though his 11 points and nine rebounds were just one off a double-double, it was perhaps his ability, along with Furman Associate Head Coach Jeremy Growe to play “get back coach” against a livid Richey for a foul whistled against Slawson extremely late in the game.

Had Growe and Garrison not come to the rescue, it likely would have cost Furman the game as a result of a technical foul, as the referee had whistle to mouth ready to take action. 

The dynamic duo of Growe and Garrison would make sure the fifth-year coach calmed down and returned to the moment. From that point forward, the Paladins seemed to find their fire they had been lacking most of the night prior to Richey’s unexpected emotional outburst.

Garrison finished the night connected on 4-of-7 shots from the field, including 3-for-6 from three-point land. He also blocked two shots, with one assist and one steal in the win. 

Throughout his career, Mike Bothwell has taken on the persona of making big shots in big moments, not all that much unlike assistant coach Daniel Fowler in that respect, who is not too far removed from some buzzer-beating moments that helped to define his career at Furman. While 

Bothwell finished the night just 5-for-20, including going 0-for-4 from three, the senior guard seemed unphased when the Paladins needed a layup to force overtime, and then another. He finished with 11 points. 

 He went 2-for-2 with time winding down and the game on the line. Not too much different than what Bothwell did on a spinning baby jumper against Trevor Stumpe and Wofford as a sophomore at the Well a couple of years ago, or earlier in the season, his three-point play the old-fashioned way to beat Texas San Antonio in a tournament at Elon. Four of Bothwell’s six rebounds in the contest were on the offensive glass. He also posted three assists. 

All told, the Paladins were able to own the glass by posting a 53-46 advantage on the backboards, which led to a narrow 11-9 advantage in second-chance points for the Paladins. 

Furman continues to be uncharacteristically erratic at times with the basketball, turning the ball over 14 times, which led directly to 16 Panther points off turnovers. The Paladins on the other hand, ended the night forcing 12 High Point miscues, which it converted into seven points.

The Paladins were good defensively all night, holding the Panthers to just 36.8% (25-of-68) from the field, including just 6-of-24 (25.0%) from the field. Furman held a 40-28 advantage in points in the paint and an 8-6 edge in fast-break points, The Panthers finished with a narrow 9-7 edge on the glass. Both teams dished out 11 assists.

Big South Player of the Year candidate John-Michael Wright posted a game-high 26 points on 9-of-29 shooting from the field, including 3-for-12 from three-point land. He also added six boards and dished out five assists. He was one of three Panthers in double figures, with Zach Austin adding 14 points, while Emmanue Izunabor added 11 points before fouling out late in the second half.  

How It Happened:

Following an Emmanuel Izunabor made charity shot with 3:11 remaining, High Point’s night looked to be heading towards an epic crescendo, and perhaps a pinnacle to date for the palatial Quebein Center still in its infancy as a mid-major facility, but as he did early in the second half at Louisville, Conley Garrison had his batman moment, with timing impeccable. He knocked down a three when Furman had to have it, which not only cut the Panthers lead to a deuce, but also prevented the opportunity for High Point to stretch its lead to more than two possessions. 

Despite forcing a High Point miss on the ensuing possession, a rebound and subsequent turnover by Garrison gave the Panthers a chance to extend their lead back to two possessions, which they took advantage of on a hammer dunk from Izunabor with just under two minutes remaining, giving High Point the 57-53 lead.

Slawson was fouled on the other end with 1:36 left. The senior from Summerville, S.C., connected on a pair of charity shots to make it a 57-54 contest. The Paladins and Panthers would trade free throws on a Jaden House free throw with just 28 seconds remaining, pushing High Point’s lead back to three, at 58-55. 

Furman held the ball as long as possible looking for a good look at a three, however, with time becoming precious, points also became imperative, and Hunter seized upon the moment to slice down the lane and lay the ball off the glass to get the Paladins within a single point, at 58-57, with only eight seconds remaining. 

Following a Furman timeout, the Paladins were forced to foul 77% foul shooter John-Michael Wright. He calmly stroked home the first foul shot, giving the Panthers the 59-57 lead, Richey called timeout to set up the scenarios for a two, or three-point shot. Michael-Wright missed his second offering, and the ball caromed into the hands of Foster, who found Bothwell in the middle of the floor. He drove directly to the hoop and layed the ball in over the block attempt from John-Michael Wright, with half-a-second left, tying the game, 59-59. It was enough to force Furman’s third overtime in its first four road games. 

After Jalen Slawson’s layup cutting down the lane gave Furman the early 61-59 lead to get overtime off to a positive start, the Paladins would see the Panthers score six-straight, with the final four coming from John-Michael Wright on a pair of foul shots and a jumper in the lane to give High Point a 65-61 lead with 1:42 remaining, and putting them on the brink of one of the biggest wins in recent memory for a program Tubby Smith is quickly rebuilding in the Gate City.

However, the visitors in Purple wouldn’t go away. Marcus Foster finished strong on a drive in the lane before Garrison collected an important miss from John-Michael Wright with 48 seconds remaining and the Paladins trailing by a couple. After a Paladin turnover and another Garrison rebound, the Paladins found themselves in the same situation with less time on the clock—this time with only 30 seconds remaining. 

Two missed Foster free throws following a foul by Bryant Randleman saw Alex Holt come down with the loose basketball for the Panthers with 16 seconds left, forcing Garrett Hien to commit the foul. Holt missed both free throws to leave the door open for Furman. Following the second miss by Holt, Garrison grabbed his third-consecutive board, and the ball eventually found its way to Bothwell in the right corner, where he drove the ball hard to the hole and layed it in with 4.4 seconds remaining to tie the game, 65-65.

Randleman missed a three from the left wing at the buzzer to force a second extra session. The Paladins finally assumed complete control in overtime, scoring the first six points on field goals from Hunter, Bothwell and Hien, assuming a 71-65 lead and held the Panthers without a field goal for the first 4:39 of the second extra session. 

High Point’s lone points of the second overtime came on a layup and a triple  by John Michael-Wright, with the latter trimming Furman’s lead to three points, at 73-70, with nine seconds remaining. Hunter was immediately fouled and he sealed the win with a free throw with seven seconds left, and the Paladins would gut out a 74-70 win on the road in the triad of the old North State. 

All told, the game featured 14 lead changes and nine ties. Neither team led the game by more than eight points, with Furman scoring the first eight points of the night before heading to the halftime locker room with a narrow 26-25 lead.

Up Next:

Furman will host perennial CAA power College of Charleston on Friday night at Timmons Arena, with tip-off slated for 7 p.m., as the Paladins look to get back on the winning track at one of the most formidable homecourt venues in mid-major basketball. 

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