Furman’s ‘purple machine’ crushes arch-rival

Furman hammers The Citadel for fifth-straight win to move into first place in SoCon standings 

Furman wing Marcus Foster was one of six Paladins in double figures

The theme for the Purple machine that has become the Furman basketball team as of late has been not just to win basketball games, but to do so that in emphatic fashion. 

That was not surprisingly again the case Wednesday night in a mid-week clash between Southern Conference rivals Furman and The Citadel, and the 216th meeting between the two charter members of the Southern Conference was never really in doubt, with the Furman holding as much as much as a 43-point cushion and ended with a 102-83 triumph over the Bulldogs at Timmons Arena, as the Paladins claimed their fifth-straight win. It was also Furman’s seventh-straight win in the series with the Bulldogs. 

With the win coupled with Chattanooga’s 80-72 setback at Samford, Furman moved into first place by a half game with a game in hand, as the Paladins improved to 17-7 overall and 9-2 in Southern Conference play. The Citadel, which played without preseason SoCon Player of the Year Hayden Brown, who was injured, fell to 9-12 overall and 3-7 in league play. Chattanooga, which held the top spot in the league since heading into the night, fell to 18-5 overall and 8-2 in league play following its road loss at Samford. 

In the past five games, the Paladins now have wins of 38, 25, 15, 30, and 19. That is an average margin of victory of 25.4 PPG in those games. Furman’s 100-point game marked the second time they have accomplished that feat this season, and marked the 12th time that Furman has eclipsed the 100-point plateau in Bob Richey’s five seasons as the Paladins’ head coach. 

In allowing 83 points to The Citadel, it marked just the second time this season the Paladins allowed 80 or more points in a game and came away with a win, as the Paladins also allowed 88 points in a 91-88 win over College of Charleston in an overtime game win back in early December. Furman had yet to allow a SoCon foe to score 80 points in any of their previous 10 SoCon games. 

The 17th win eclipses the win total for the entire COVID-19 shortened 2020-21 season, and helped the Paladins improve to 84-13 overall and 49-6 at Timmons Arena since the start of the 2015-16 season. The win also saw the Paladins improve to 11-1 in Greenville this season, including 10-1 inside the cozy confines of their on-campus facility. Furman has won 35.6% of its 234 wins all-time in 25 seasons since the start of that 2015-16 campaign. 

The Paladins placed six players in double figures in the contest, paced by SoCon Player of the Year candidate Jalen Slawson, who posted 17 points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal en route to his 21st double-figure scoring effort in 24 games this season for the Paladins. 

Slawson connected on 6-of-8 shots from the field, which included a 3-for-4 performance from three-point range and was 2-for-2 from the charity stripe, seeing just 16:27 of court action in the win. Joining Slawson in double figures were graduate senior Alex Hunter, who splashed in 16, as he appears to have regained the shooting touch which helped him fashion such strong start from the perimeter as the national leader in three-pointers made towards the end of non-conference play, while Joe Anderson and J.P. Pegues were responsible for 26 of the team’s 37 bench points, adding 14 and 12 points, respectively. Marcus Foster and Mike Bothwell added 13 and 12 points, respectively to round out the six in double figure for the Paladins.

Hunter’s performance saw him knock down 6-of-8 shots from the field, including going 4-for-6 from three-point range, which moved him to within two of setting a new career Paladin record for three-pointers made, as his four triples on the night give him 287 for his Furman career, and within one of the school’s current record-holder,  Jordan Lyons, who made 288 triples in his outstanding four-year career for the Paladins from 2017-20.   In addition to his outstanding night shooting the basketball, Hunter also recorded two rebounds, one assist, and a steal in just under 20 minutes of floor action. 

Furman’s lopsided win overshadowed what was otherwise an outstanding night shooting the basketball for The Citadel’s Jason Roche, who led all scorers with 22 points and his seven three-pointers and was just one shy of matching a career-best eight triples, which came in the Bulldogs’ season-opening win at ACC member Pittsburgh. 

Roche, who is a prime candidate to garner the SoCon’s individual accolade as the league’s Freshman of the Year, connected on 7-of-10 shots from three-point land to highlight is team and game-leading scoring night. 

Roche was one of three Bulldogs in double figures, as center Stephen Clark added16 points and team-leading six boards and dished out a team-high five assists, while Rudy Fitzgibbons rounded out the Bulldogs in double figures, adding 11 on 4-of-8 shooting from the field, including 3-for-7 from long-range. 

Furman, which shot the ball at a blistering 63.6% (21-of-33) and 70% (14-of-20) from three-point range en route to 63 points in the opening half, cooled down in the second half, finishing the game connecting on 54.9% (39-of-71), including connecting on 50% (16-of-32) from three-point range for the game. The Paladins boasted as much as a 43-point lead in the second half before eventually coasting to the 19-point win. 

The Bulldogs , which won the second half 52-39, finished the contest connecting on 43.3% (26-of-60) from the field and finished the contest by making 46.9% (15-of-32) from three-point land in the second half. The Citadel connected on 10 of its 15 three-pointers in the second half. 

The Paladins held advantages in points in the paint (44-22), points from turnovers (23-13),  bench points (37-36), and total assists (22-16). The Bulldogs posted advantages in second-chance points (15-6), total rebounds (38-32), and fast-break points (12-11). 

How It Happened:

For the opening 15 minutes of Wednesday night’s win over The Citadel, Furman looked every bit of an NCAA Tournament team on the defensive end of the floor, and it led to a 23-5 lead following a Joe Anderson triple just a little over a minute following the under 16 media timeout. Furman was coasting early against its coastal foe from the outset.

By the time the second media timeout with 11:44 remaining in the opening frame, the Paladins had already increased its lead to 20, at 31-11. The Paladins were shooting a mind-boggling 73.3% (11-of-15) from the field and a 75% (6-of-8) shooting clip from three. Eight of Furman’s 11 made field goals during that first eight minutes and change of action were assisted. 

Even more impressive was how impressive the Paladins were guarding the basketball on the other end, seemingly flying around and making life difficult with tremendous defense both in transition and in the half-court against the sharp-shooting Bulldogs. In the opening eight minutes, the Bulldogs were just 4-for-15 (26.7%) from the field and had connected on just two of eight triples  (25%), with the Paladins already having forced the Bulldogs into three turnovers, which included a pair of steals. 

Mike Bothwell dunk

With Furman leading 37-14 with nine-and-a-half minutes to play in the opening frame, senior guard Mike Bothwell took a pass  from Alex Hunter off a curling cut down the middle of the paint, and his one-handed tomahawk dunk over a Bulldog defender offered yet another example of both Furman’s confidence and its pressure-free exuberance on both ends of the floor as of late. The Paladins having increased its lead by over half The Citadel’s point total of 31, at 63-31, playing near-flawless basketball, putting together maybe its best half of hoops of the season. 

In the second half, Furman would grow its lead to as much as 43 points when Joe Anderson connected on one of his four three-pointers with 12:16 remaining. The Citadel’s Jason Roche scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half, which included connecting on six three-pointers in the frame. 

Postgame press conference:

Furman head coach Bob Richey
Alex Hunter (left) and Mike Bothwell (right)

Up Next: 

Furman will be back downtown in its home away from home to take on the UNC Greensboro Spartans (12-10, 4-6 SoCon) at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, with tip-off slated for high noon.

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