Furman wins defensive slugfest at UNCG

Furman scored a season-low in a win, as the Paladins posted a 58-54 win on the road at defending league tournament and regular-season and champion UNC Greensboro in Southern Conference action Wednesday night at the Greensboro Coliseum.

The best news of the day for head coach Bob Richey was the birth of his son—Jacks Burner Richey—at about 2 p.m. in Greenville. After the conclusion of another great milestone of life, Richey made the short drive of about 3.5 hours to Greensboro from Greenville with assistant coach Daniel Fowler, arriving about 90 minutes prior to tip-off. 

Richey knew the importance of being there for his team after the Paladins were beaten 76-67 at VMI last Saturday. With Furman’s four-point win, Richey’s day was a complete win, and he will have the opportunity to pick up another milestone Saturday for the Paladins at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, facing the Mercer Bears, as he will have a chance to notch his 100th win as the head coach of the Furman basketball program. 

With the win, Furman improved to 10-6 overall and 2-1 in league play, while the Spartans dropped to 8-5 overall and 0-1 in SoCon play. The Spartans were were playing their first game in 20 days. It was Furman’s fourth true road win of the season. 

The 58 points in the Furman win were the lowest point total in a victory since Nov. 27, 2019, when the Paladins picked up a 58-57 win over UT-Arlington in a neutral floor in-season tournament at Elon. It marked the first time Furman won a Southern Conference game scoring less than 60 points for the first time since Feb.26, 2015, when the Paladins knocked off Western Carolina, 53-49, at Timmons Arena.

Only four players scored for the Paladins in the contest, which included three in double figures, as Mike Bothwell (20 pts), Alex Hunter (16 pts), and Marcus Foster (13 pts) combined for 49 of Furman’s 58 points in the win. Jalen Slawson contributed nine points, snapping a streak of 13-straight games in double figures for the senior forward from Summerville, S.C., with the last time Slawson failed to find his way into double digits being in the 80-72 overtime win over Louisville, which saw the senior finish with just five points. 

The Paladins were playing a bit short-handed, missing starter Conley Garrison in the backcourt, who did not make the trip to the Gate City as a result of COVID-19 protocols. 

Bothwell posted his fifth game of 20 or more points this season by connecting on 7-of-11 shots from the field and 2-for-4 from three-point land. He also added a 4-for-5 performance from the charity stripe, including the two game-clinching foul shots with 11 seconds remaining to help the Paladins notch win No. 10 and split the opening road trip of league play with a 1-1 mark.

In addition to his team-leading 20-point scoring effort,  the senior from Cleveland Heights, OH, three assists, two steals, and posted a pair of rebounds.

Hunter finished the contest by connecting on 5-of-17 shots from the field, including going 5-for-15 from three-point range. The senior from nearby Raleigh, N.C., also recorded three steals, an assist and a rebound. 

Foster’s 13 points came as a result of his best shooting night of his career, going 4-of-6 from the field, including going a perfect 4-for-4 from three-point range. The sophomore guard added eight rebounds,  an assist, a block and a steal to round out his double-figure scoring effort.

Slawson finished 4-of-13 from the field and was 1-of-7 from three-point land. The senior from Summerville, S.C., added three assists, three blocks, two steals and two rebounds. 

UNCG finished with three in double figures, with De’Monte Buckingham leading the way with 14 points, while forward Mohammad Abdulsalam added 11 and guard Kobe Langley finished with 10. Dante Treacy finished on the verge of double figures, finishing with nine.

Buckingham connected 6-of-11 shots from the field, and 2-for-4 from three-point range, including seven rebounds and added an assist.

For the game, Furman shot the ball at 40% (20-of-50) from the field for the game, including 37.5% (12-of-31) from three-point range. UNCG finished the night connecting on 41.8% (23-of-55), including 31.3% (5-of-16) from three-point range. 

The Spartans owned a massive 34-10 advantage in points in the paint, and also were a +15 on the backboards, out-rebounding the Paladins, 38-23. 

UNCG owned advantages in second-chance points (19-15), fast-break points (8-1), assists (12-8), and bench points (6-0). Both teams scored 12 points off turnovers. 

How It Happened: 

In what was a defensive battle, which featured five ties and six ties, but the Paladins continued to make big shots down the stretch when it looked as if the Spartans might be ready to take control of the basketball game.

A De’Monte Buckingham triple with just under eight minutes remaining brought the Spartans to within a point, at 46-45, however,  a three-pointer by Mike Bothwell put the Paladins back ahead by four, 49-45, with 7:29 remaining. 

After a Buckingham one-handed tomahawk slam off a breakaway made it a 49-47 game with 5:24 left, however, Jalen Slawson raced to the other end, beating Buckingham back down the floor to find himself for an open look at a three-pointer from the left elbow, which he knocked down for his only three of the night, extending Furman’s lead back to five, at 52-47, with 5:04 remaining. 

A jumper by Abdulsalam got the Spartans back to within three with 4:01 left, and neither team scored from the field over the next 2:23 of game clock,  a layup by Mike Bothwell with 1:38 remaining eventually took Furman’s advantage at five, at 54-49, with 1:38 remaining. 

A Dante Treacy three-pointer with 61 seconds remaining made things tense for Bob Richey and the Paladins once again, cutting the Furman lead to just two, at 54-52.

On Furman’s next possession, a top-of-the-key fade-a-way jumper with the shot clock winding down extended Furman’s lead back to four, at 56-52, with 31 seconds remaining. Buckingham’s jumper on the other end made it a two-point Spartans deficit once again, with 19 seconds left.

However, the Spartans still had two fouls to give, and inexplicably waited seven seconds to give the first of those, getting to six team fouls. A second later, Bothwell was fouled to get the Paladins into the 1-and-1, and he went to the line with 11 seconds remaining. He calmly knocked down both foul shots, as Furman made it a 58-54 game. 

A final three pointer was off the mark with four seconds remaining, and Furman ran out the final seconds to claim its first SoCon road win of the season. 

In the opening half, Furman scored the first seven points of the contest, and would maintain a six-point edge when Alex Hunter knocked down a three-pointer to give the Paladins a 21-15 lead with 9:02 remaining in the opening half of play. 

With UNCG trailing 24-19 with 7:43 remaining in the half, a 9-3 run by the Spartans, which started with a pair of Kobe Langley foul shots, and ended with a Treacy jumper in the lane, giving UNCG a 28-27 lead with 1:42 remaining. Marcus Foster’s three with 1:12 left in the opening half, giving the Paladins a 30-28 lead. Furman would maintain that two-point lead heading into the locker room.

Up Next:

Furman returns to its downtown home—Bon Secours Wellness Arena—for the first time since the 2019-20 season, as it will face off against Mercer (8-6, 1-0 SoCon) at 4 p.m. in a key SoCon tilt. 

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