Furman drops second-straight at ETSU

Garrett Hien finished with 10 pts off the bench in road loss to Bucs

East Tennessee State got a balanced scoring effort, as LeDarrius Brewer posted a double-double of 20 points and 10 boards to lead five Bucs in double figures, as the Bucs snapped their five-game losing streak with a 75-71 win over Furman in a heated Southern Conference basketball contest before a boisterous crowd of 4,305 fans on-hand at Freedom Hall.

With the win, ETSU improved to 13-13 on the season, including upping its mark to 5-8 in league play, while Furman fell for the second time in succession, as the Paladins now sit at 17-9 overall and 9-4 in league play.

In combination with Chattanooga’s 74-72 overtime win at Mercer, the Paladins are now a game-and-a-half out of first-place, with a game in hand.

Brewer was joined in double figures by his brother Ty Brewer (12 pts, 8 rebs), Jordan King (12 pts, 2 stls), Jaden Seymour (11 pts), and David Sloan (10 pts, 6 asts). 

Furman also placed five in double figures, with both Jalen Slawson and Mike Bothwell leading the way with 15 points apiece, while  Conley Garrison, who scored 22 second-half points in the first meeting, finished with 14. Marcus Foster added 10, while Garrett Hien came off the bench to provide yet another solid effort, matching Foster’s total with 10 points.

Slawson, a candidate for Southern Conference Player of the Year, recorded his 22nd double-figure effort of the season on 7-of-14 from the field, including 1-of-5 from long range before fouling out of the contest late. The senior from Summerville, S.C., also added six rebounds, three blocks, dished out three helpers and recorded a steal in another strong effort. 

Bothwell, a senior from Cleveland Heights, OH, added his 15 point effort on 6-of-9 shooting from the field and 2-for-3 from long range and was 1-for-2 from the charity stripe. He added a steal, team-leading four assists and two rebounds.

The Paladins finished the contest connecting on 51.9% (28-of-54) from the field, which included a 36.7% (11-of-30) effort from three-point range. 

ETSU shot an almost identical clip to that of the Paladins, making 50% (23-of-46) of its shots from the field, which included a solid 52.6% (10-of-19) from three-point range. King led the effort going 4-for-8 from downtown, with all 12 of his points coming via the trifecta. 

Both teams took good care of the basketball, with both teams committing just seven turnovers, however, ETSU held a slight edge when it came to take advantage of those miscues, out-scoring the Paladins 9-7 in the points from turnovers category. 

ETSU finished the night with advantages in total rebounds (27-23), second-chance points (11-5), while the two teams finished deadlocked in total assists (17-17), fast breaks (10-10), bench points (10-10). Furman held a narrow 26-22 edge in points in the paint.

ETSU finished19-of-25 from the line. Furman went 4-for-6  from the line, getting outscored 19-4 at the charity stripe over the duration of the game. The Bucs would end the game with 25 attempts to Furman’s six, with Furman not attempting a free throw in the second half. 

Mike Bothwell goes up to try and deny a LeDarrius Brewer shot attempt

How It Happened:

I’ve said it before during this very season. Sport can be fickle at times if you let it. Certainly over five games, East Tennessee State did not let it become such.

Now, with Furman’s 75-71 loss at Freedom Hall at ETSU, head coach Bob Richey hopes his team takes the same approach.

The Bucs came in loser’s of five-straight by a combined 15 points, and prior to Saturday’s loss to UNCG, Furman had won five-straight by an average of 25.4 PPG.

But while ETSU grew from being humbled to gain a four-point win over a legitimate SoCon regular-season and tournament favorite, Furman’s hopes to win at least a share of regular-season title took a major hit in the four-point loss in Johnson City, it seemed the Paladins were still dwelling on Saturday’s tough defeat to UNCG—at least for the first half. Credit to the Bucs for starting and finishing the game in strong fashion.

In the past two first halves against Furman, the Paladins have seen opponents UNCG and ETSU shoot a combined 28-of-49 from the field, averaging out to 57.1%. Both the Spartans and Bucs have connected on a combined 9-of-16 shots from three—point range in  each of the past two, averaging out to 56.2%, with the Bucs going 7-of-10 from long-range to start the game Monday night.

The Paladins have struggled to find their shooting touch in each of the past two opening halves, connecting on a combined 20-of-57 shots, which averages out to a 35.1% clip from the field, while making just 9-of-32 three-point shots, which is just a 28.1% conversion rate. In both losses, Furman came into the second halves of each of its last two contests knowing it would have to expend a lot of energy just to get back into the game.

ETSU brought a measure of confidence into the game that saw it play loose from the jump, which might have been the type of hooping we anticipated from the perennial league title contender coming into the season.

In Saturday’s home loss to UNCG, the Paladins trailed by 17 points with just over six minutes at ‘The Well’ to the Spartans (55-38), while in the opening half against the Bucs on Monday night, Furman found itself trailing by as many 18 (36-18) before, like Saturday, launching an all-out onslaught in the second half and eventually taking the lead briefly only to see the Bucs come back and find their game down the stretch to do something they hadn’t done in the previous five game’s, which is close strong.

The Bucs looked more like the veteran team Monday night in latter portions of the game. They didn’t give the indication to the naked eye that they were a team that had faltered down the stretch in five-straight games, surrendering leads in most.

“My job is to stay positive…and for me to be tough and when I realize they are about to fold a little bit and fall apart…you know…huddled and muddled and then tough again…it’s my job to fix that,” ETSU head coach Desmond Oliver said.

“But its for the player’s to decide mostly. The example I use is that you are in a bar…well I shouldn’t use bar because these are college kids but you’re at a college function where there is some kool aid being served and some chips and a bad element breaks out and you have to protect yourself and I say…it’s one thing…in the first half you’re fighting the good fight  but the big brother ain’t home yet…so you win  the fight but you say ‘wait until my big brother gets home’ …’he’s coming home in the second half so what are we going to do’…and big brother came home and tied the game up in the second half, but they fought back,” Oliver added.

The Bucs exorcised some demons that were evident in late-game situations in the previous five games, while Furman’s haunts to start the against UNCG carried over and followed the Paladins on the road to Johnson City.

ETSU came out and established its presence early in the first half, concluding the frame by connecting on 59.1% (13-of-22) of its shots from the field, including 70% of its three-point attempts (7-of-10) to take a 43-30 lead into the half. 

In contrast to the Bucs bringing the fight, the Paladins were for a second-straight game were on the receiving end of haymakers thrown and landed by the opposition…The Bucs were the aggressor from the jump.

ETSU came out firing on all cylinders, connecting on their first four shots from the field to race out to a 10-2 lead at the 17:21 mark on a layup by leading scorer LeDarrius Brewer.

Brewer was simply unstoppable in the opening half for the Bucs, as he scored 19 of his game-high 20 points in the opening half of play alone, and was a large part of why the Bucs entered the halftime locker room on ‘Gold Out’ night at Freedom Hall with a 13-point lead. He made 5-of-9 shots from the field, including 2-of-3 from three-point land. He was also a perfect 7-for-7 from the charity stripe. 

A David Sloan three-pointer with just under six minutes remaining in the opening half staked the Bucs to their biggest lead of the night at 18 points, as his triple gave ETSU a sizable 36-18 lead with 5:58 to play in the opening frame.

Furman mounted a bit of a rally over the final portions of the half, out-scoring ETSU, 12-7, from there, to take some measure of momentum into the half. 

With the Bucs up 17 (39-22) following a pair of Mohab Yasser foul shots with 2:59 remaining in the half, Furman responded with six-straight points on back-to-back threes from Conley Garrison and Mike Bothwell to get the deficit to 11, at 39-28, with 1:57 remaining in the half. 

ETSU responded with five-straight—all from Brewer—as he connected on a pair of foul shots to extend the lead back to 13 with 90 seconds to play in the opening half, and then following a missed shot on a triple attempt, which was off the mark from Garrison, Brewer brought the loud crowd to its feet with one of the more athletic plays of the night.

Following one of Jalen Slawson’s three blocks in the contest, as he batted away a Jordan King layup attempt, LeDarrius Brewer caught the blocked shot and skied high to flush it home bringing the crowd to its collective feet in the process and giving the Bucs the 43-28 lead with 30 seconds remaining in the half.

That could have given the Bucs all the momentum entering the halftime locker room, however, on one of its biggest possessions of the night, the Paladins were able to salvage a little hope heading into the half, as Hunter drove down the lane and in traffic made a tough layup off the right window, cutting Furman’s deficit to 13, at 43-30, with 13 seconds remaining in the opening stanza. That’s how the score would remain entering the half. 

In the second half, Furman didn’t wait until six minutes to start driving its way back into the contest. It started from the outset of the second half, setting the tone like any big brother might when they get home. A Garrison three was him stepping one foot in the door, cutting ETSU’s lead to 10 quickly, at 43-33 a little over 30 seconds into the second frame. 

Sloan answered with a three and layup in transition for the Bucs to widen the margin back to 15, at 48-33, with 17:56 left in the half, but it was clear, this wasn’t going to go according to script for ETSU in the second half as it had in the first for the Bucs. Furman was locked in and intent on continuing to throw haymakers of its own for the duration of the second half. Big brother had gotten home and discovered there was no purple kool-aid left. 

After a Charlie Weber hook shot got the Bucs lead back to 15, at 50-35, and following a Sloan floater in the paint with 16:52 left, which kept kept the lead at 15 (52-37), the Paladins launched a furious rally. The Paladins scored 17 of the next 19 points of the contest, tying the game 54-54 on a Garrison triple with 11:58 remaining. 

King then perhaps made two of the biggest shots of the night for the Bucs with the game teetering on the brink of what could be best described as shots that were late in the shot clock, and with ETSU staggering offensively from those punches landed by the older brother. Two out of sync threes with one of those being well-guarded by Furman helping ETSU hang on to its balance before complete going down.

King’s first three gave the Bucs a 57-54 lead with 10:36 remaining. However, Furman’s Garrett Hien played big brother on the next trip down the floor for the Paladins, connecting on a corner three to tie the game, 57-57, with 10:20 left. 

With the Bucs out of sync offensively once again and the shot clock winding, King offered up another prayer with a high-archer three from the left elbow…good! The Bucs went back in front 60-57 with 9:53 remaining, and a pair of Mohab Yasser foul shots would extend the ETSU lead back to five, at 62-57 with 9:31 left.

However, big brother wasn’t going anywhere, and in fact, hadn’t even had the best of the fight yet. The Paladins got five straight of their own to tie the game, 62-62, following another Garrison triple and a hunter left elbow mid-range jumper, tying the score with 8:46 left.

ETSU’s Jaden Seymour would then get fouled on the other end, as Mike Bothwell picked up his third personal foul. His 1-for-2 effort at the stripe saw the Bucs take a 63-62 lead. 

With just under eight minutes left, big brother landed its best punch of the night in the form of Bothwell, as his layup in traffic allowed Furman to take its first lead of the night, at 64-63. Although the lead came much earlier in the second half than it did in the UNCG game, the game was playing out in a similar fashion.

Another crucial opportunity presented itself for the younger brother, and he waited until the very last to realize he had the fight left to finish the job. With the shot clock winding down once again and the Bucs seemingly out of sorts offensively, David Sloan made something similar to what looked like a shovel pass in football to Seymour left of the lane with one second left on the shot-clock, and Seymour’s one-handed tomahawk slam gave the Bucs a 65-64 lead.

Following a Slawson missed layup on the other end, ETSU got another key basket in the paint from Seymour to stretch its lead back to three, at 67-64. 

Furman responded with four of its own points to regain the lead, 68-67, as Hien connected on a layup in the paint, which was followed by a Slawson layup in transition with 5:18 remaining. 

The Bucs then put the lockdown on the big brother, not allowing the Paladins to score over the next 5:16 to close out in a fashion it hadn’t been accustomed to. ETSU finished the game much like Furman did against UNCG, with a defense that held the Paladins without a point for over five minutes, finishing off Furman with an 8-3 run to seal the win and snap the five-game skid. 

LeDarrius Brewer, who scored 19 in the opening half, fittingly scored the final point of the night for the Bucs, as his free throw with 2.9 seconds remaining allowed the Bucs to seal the game with a hard-fought 75-71 victory.

For Furman, it’s been a week that started with highs of talking of NET rankings, reaching 66 following to a 102-83 win vs. The Citadel last Monday night, while now being humbled two straight nights. Like I said, sport is fickle. But while basketball can sometimes be a cruel game, the game for both teams can be what they want it to be. 

So many times in the past, a successful Furman program has let a result or two let it be a defining moment dwelled upon instead of a refining one going forward. For ETSU, it could be the spark it needs to find down the stretch to see itself back into the league race as a worthy and viable contender in Asheville. 

But the neat thing is, both will choose how to define this game, rather than how the game with define them the rest of the season. We aren’t so lucky to be privy to that in every area of life, but life lessons can be learned in fickle moments…humbling ones. ETSU knows first-hand, and now, it’s Furman’s turn to try and find a way back to its feet before league-leading Chattanooga invades Timmons Arena for a 3 p.m. tip-off before a nationally televised audience on CBS Sports Network.

“All losses are tough you know…I’ve never had a loss that wasn’t tough and our defense has taken a step back these last two games and with that we’ve also not been shooting the ball as well, specifically the last two games and we have to figure that out and which one matters most…is it I have to make shots to play hard defense…is it we have to get down 16 to play hard defense…or are we going to go out there from the jump and play the defense from the jump like we were doing just a few weeks ago,” head coach Bob Richey said. 

ETSU will be host Samford Saturday at Freedom Hall in a 4 p.m. contest.

Up Next for Furman:

Furman returns to the floor Saturday to face a Chattanooga team that was one of the first in college basketball to claim a 20-win season, following a 74-72 come-from-behind overtime on the road at Mercer Monday night. With the win, the Mocs improved to 20-5 overall and 10-2 in league play. 

Published by soconjohn

I am a lover of all things SoCon, and I have had a passion to write about, follow and tell the world about this great conference for pretty much my entire life. While I do love the SoCon, and live in the SoCon city, which is home to the Furman Paladins, have a passion for sports in general, with college football and college hoops topping the list.

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