Furman holds off talented Bucs to move atop SoCon standings

Furman grad senior guard Conley Garrison/photo courtesy of Furman athletics

When the two teams headed to their respective locker rooms for halftime, Furman trailed the contest 39-35 against a talented East Tennessee State team, and graduate transfer guard Conley Garrison hadn’t scored nor had he even taken a shot.

By the time the buzzer sounded following a 78-69 win against East Tennessee State, the former Division II All-American from Drury University finished the final 20 minutes of basketball against ETSU with his best game as a Paladin.

That’s because Garrison finished off the second half by scoring 23 of Furman’s 43  second-half points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field and was 4-for-6 from three-point land to finish with a team-high 23 points. The 23-point effort by Garrison was the best game has turned in scoring-wise as a Paladin, and his performance showed the Paladins have just one more weapon in the arsenal. 

Furman’s nine-point win over the Bucs saw the Paladins improve to 12-6 overall and 4-1 in league play, while ETSU fell to 10-8 overall and 2-3 in SoCon action. Furman’s win coupled with Chattanooga’s 70-59 loss at Western sees Furman move to the top of the conference in the win column by a half-game, as the Mocs fell to 13-4 overall and 3-1 in league play.

The Paladins improved to 8-9 against the Bucs since they returned to the SoCon in the 2014-15 season, including improving to 8-7 against ETSU in regular-season matchups. The win also saw the Paladins narrow the overall series to 33-31, and the Paladins moved to 7-1 against the Bucs at Timmons Arena since they re-joined the league. 

Additionally, Furman improved to 7-1 at Timmons Arena (8-1 in Greenville) this season, moved to 81-13 at Timmons Arena since the start of the 2015-16 season. Furman also improved to 46-6 against SoCon foes on the home floor in that same span.

Garrison’s outburst in the second half saw the Paladins overturn the four-point halftime deficit and out-score the Bucs 43-30 in the second half to come up with their third-straight Southern Conference win. In addition to his 23-point effort, Garrison also added a pair of steals, dished out a pair of assists, pulled down a team-hight tying seven rebounds and blocked a shot to finish out his night on the stats sheet.

Garrison was joined in double figures by three other Paladins, with senior guard Mike Bothwell adding 15 points, while sophomore guard Marcus Foster added 14 and senior forward Jalen Slawson finished with 10.

Bothwell, a native of Cleveland Heights, OH, posted his 15 points on 5-for-11 shooting from the field, including having gone 2-of-6 from three-point land and 2-for-6 from three-point land. Bothwell also went a perfect 3-for-3 from three-point range.Bothwell added six assists, which matched a season and career-high previously established in a win over Radford earlier this season. Bothwell added four rebounds and a pair of steals. His double-figure scoring effort marked his sixth-straight double-figure scoring effort, as well as his 15th-double-figure scoring effort this season. 

Foster’s performance was also part of a trend for the sophomore guard, who recorded his third-straight game in double figures for the Paladins, as he finished in double digits in wins at UNCG (13 pts) and Saturday vs. Mercer (12 pts). The native of Atlanta, GA, finished the night posting his 14 points on a 5-of-10 shooting effort from the field and was a perfect 3-for-3 from the charity stripe. Foster added four rebounds, dished out a pair of assists and recorded a steal to add to his overall totals. 

Slawson rounded out the double-figure scorers for the Paladins, adding 10 points on a 4-for-7 effort from the field, including a 1-of-2 effort from three-point land. He also added a team-high tying seven rebounds, while also dishing out four assists, recorded one steal and blocked one shot to finish out an overall strong effort. It was Slawson’s 16th double-figure scoring effort in 18 games this season for the Paladins. 

ETSU finished the evening with four in double figures, led by Ty Brewer’s 15 points, while Mohab Yasser added 13 points off the bench to match a career-high. Rounding out the Bucs in double figures were senior guards David Sloan and LeDarrius Brewer, who added 12 and 10 points, respectively for the Blue and Gold.

Ty Brewer’s 15 points came on a 6-of-10 shooting performance from the field, which included a 1-for-5 effort from three-point land. He was also 2-of-2 at the line, while adding a team-high seven rebounds.

The Paladins finished the contest connecting on 45.2% (28-of-62) from the field, which included a 31.4% (11-of-35) shooting effort from three-point range. Furman was also solid from the charity stripe, and are 34-of-42 from the line over the past two games.

ETSU finished the contest connecting on 48.2% (27-of-56) from the field, including shooting 23.8% (5-of-21) from three-point range. The Bucs connected on a solid 76.9% (10-of-13) from the free throw line.

Furman finished the night by holding advantages in points off turnovers (20-6), total rebounds (35-33), total assists (18-14), and second chance points (12-8). ETSU finished the contest holding advantages in points in the paint (38-30), fast-break points (8-5), and bench points (18-8). Furman forced ETSU into 14 turnovers, while committing just 10. 

How It Happened:

For much of the night, it appeared East Tennessee State was going to snap its curse of Timmons Arena being a house of horrors for it since re-joining the SoCon, however, Furman closed out the game with some of its best play of the night to secure the nine-point, 78-69, win, as the Paladins used an 18-5 run over the final 6:23 to close out their fourth Southern Conference win in emphatic fashion, despite what was a gritty, gutsy performance from the upset-minded Bucs. 

It was all part of the design of a brutal non-conference schedule for Furman, which featured so many late-game situations during the 13-game non-league slate, and Furman almost seemed at-ease with the Bucs using a David Sloan step-back triple to tie the basketball game, 69-69, with 2:59 remaining.

It would turn out to be the final points the Bucs would score in the contest, as Furman used a Jalen Slawson jumper, a Conley Garrison corner three, and a combined 4-of-6 performance from the charity stripe from Garrison, Slawson and Marcus Foster to finish out the game strong, out-scoring the Bucs 9-0 over the final 2:59, playing some of its basketball of the night on both ends of the floor. 

The Bucs held the lead for 30:44 of the 40-minute basketball game, which included as much as a 10-point first-half lead with eight minutes remaining in the opening frame, however, it was a clash that would be decided by Furman’s maturity in late-game situations that proved to be the difference in the clash between two of the most successful SoCon basketball programs over the past seven seasons. 

ETSU’s talented senior point guard David Sloan proved to be a thorn in the side of the Paladins much of the night, and it was his fade-a-away jumper off the right side in the lane, which gave the Bucs a 62-57 lead with 7:52 remaining.

That’s when Furman started to show its battle-tested mettle in the contest, using a 12-4 run, which started with a Conley Garrison triple from the left elbow just 19 seconds later, cutting the Bucs’ lead to two, at 62-60.

The 12-4 run would end when a Garrison driving layup put the Paladins up by three, 69-66, with 4:13 remaining bringing the crowd of 1,453 fans at Timmons Arena to its feet, filled with a sense of expectation. Despite Sloan coming down and hitting one of the toughest shots of the night on the ensuing ETSU possession—a step-back triple from the top of the key to tie the game, 69-69, with 2:59 left—the Paladins weren’t going to be denied. 

Slawson’s layup in the paint with 1:48 helped the Paladins regain and the needed momentum to finish out the home win. Furman used a slow build to reach its ultimate crescendo in the contest, which obviously ended with an emphatic statement over the final six-and-a-half minutes. 

In the opening half, it was ETSU that looked like the team more ready for the moment, using a 51.7% shooting effort in the opening half, which included high-flying dunks from Ty Brewer, Jaden Seymour, and LeDarrius Brewer to showcase their vast array of talent and overall athleticism. 

ETSU opened the game with a quick four points on a Sloan layup and an emphatic dunk in transition on a one-handed tomahawk to signal Desmond Oliver’s Bucs had come to play and were more than prepped for the challenge against the Paladins. 

Driving that point home even further was LeDarrius Brewer, as his three-pointer with just under five minutes remaining in the opening half gave the Bucs their largest lead of the night, at 32-22, with 4:54 remaining in the opening frame. 

Furman managed to cut the lead to four by the time the two teams headed to the halftime locker room on what was arguably the biggest shot of the night, as Garrett Hien’s lone three points of the contest came on a three-pointer that conceivably hit every part of the rim before bouncing high off the back rim and then down through the net as the buzzer sounded, taking Furman’s deficit from seven to four, at 35-39, as ETSU headed to the break with the advantage. 

The opening five minutes of the second half would see both Furman and ETSU play well, with the Bucs going ahead by six on a Ty Brewer jumper in the paint only to see Furman tie the game, at 41-41, following threes from Slawson and Garrison. After Ty Brewer hammered home an alley-oop lob from Sloan, the Bucs would re-take the lead, 43-41, with 17:38 remaining.

On the ensuing Furman offensive possession, Slawson turned the ball over on a steal from Sloan, but almost just as quickly, Garrison was waiting to provide a game-changing play. He stole the ball from Sloan at mid-court before racing down to slam home his first dunk of his Furman career, tying the game, 43-43. 

After a Bucs missed shot and then turned the ball over following an offensive board on their ensuing possession, Furman assumed its first lead of the night, at 45-43, following a jumper in the paint from Garrison with 16:20 remaining. 

Over the next five minutes the Paladins would stay within striking distance, but the Bucs had a rebuttal for Furman’s quick start out of the locker room, using a 12-4 run to forge back ahead by six, at 55-49, on a Brewer pump-fake to avoid a Slawson block attempt in transition on an ETSU fast break with 11:40 remaining.

Following a Mike Bothwell layup, which cut the Bucs lead back to four, at 55-51, with just under 10 minutes remaining, ETSU’s Mohab Yasser answered with a three from the left corner to give the visitor’s a six-point advantage once again, at 57-51, with 9:25 left. 

However, Furman and Garrison weren’t going anywhere. Garrison’s three on the other end cut the ETSU lead to three with 9:01 remaining, but Yasser’s layup put the Bucs back ahead five, at 59-54, with 8:26 left.

After a Garrison three-point play the old-fashioned way following a foul by ETSU’s Vonnie Patterson got the Paladins back to within a bucket with 8:15 to play, it would be Sloan’s triple that put the Bucs back up five, at 62-57, with 7:52 remaining.

The Paladins continued the charge, however, and it would be another Garrison triple that would bring the Paladins back to within two with 7:33 remaining. Ty Brewer’s jumper on the other end would increase ETSU’s lead back to four, at 64-60, with 6:23 left. 

Alex Hunter’s three with 6:11 brought Furman’s deficit back to one. A Sloan layup gave the Bucs a 66-63 lead with 5:20 left, and that would prove to be the Bucs’ final lead of the contest. 

A Marcus Foster layup got the Paladins back to within one, and then after a Furman defensive stop, a pair of Foster free throws helped the Paladins regain the lead, at 67-66, with 5:20 remaining. A Sloan missed layup saw the Paladins increase their lead to three following a Garrison layup in the paint, making it a 69-66 lead with 4:13 left.

Sloan’s step-back triple tied the game, 69-69, with 2:59 remaining, however, it would be the Bucs final points of the night.

Postgame Press Conference:

Furman head coach Bob Richey
Furman sophomore guard Marcus Foster and graduate transfer guard Conley Garrison

Up Next:

Furman returns to action Saturday afternoon before a national television audience, taking on the Chattanooga Mocs at McKenzie Arena with first-place in the league standings on the line. Tip-off is slated for 3 p.m., and the game will be televised by CBS Sports Network.

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