Furman sweeps Wofford for the first time in 16 years

Furman and Wofford met for the second time in a three-year span at Bon Secours Wellness Arena

It’s true that Furman’s 25-point earlier this season at Wofford might have been a bit of an aberration, and Saturday’s 70-69 win by the Paladins was more an indicator of how close the games have been in recent memory.

It was a game that finished similar to the last time the two met at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in a late February contest nearly two years ago to the day, with the Paladins winning a 67-66 contest surviving a shot at the buzzer by Nathan Hoover on that occasion.

On Saturday, the Paladins had to sweat out a pair of misses by Wofford’s big man B.J. Mack to escape with another one-point win before a similar crowd as the one a couple of years go, with a gathering of 5,332 partisan to the purple and white witnessing another thriller. 

The Paladins, who have now won two-straight after enduring a first three-game losing streak, and have even managed to see the gap close between them and first-place Chattanooga, which suffered its second-straight setback, falling 80-75 to VMI at McKenzie Arena.

Furman’s win saw it improve to 19-10 overall and 11-5 in SoCon play, while Chattanooga’s home loss saw the Mocs fall to 22-6 and 12-4 in league action. Wofford’s loss saw its hopes of landing a top six seed for the upcoming SoCon Tournament take a bit of a hit, as the Terriers fell to 16-12 overall and 8-8 in Southern Conference action. 

The one-point win for the Paladins marked Furman’s first season sweep of its I-85 neighbor’s for the first time since the 2005-06 season. Furman had to get non-traditional scorers to step up to snap a 16-year streak of not being able to do more break even in the series, and with seniors Mike Bothwell and Alex Hunter held to a combined six points, it was up to others step up. 

On senior day, that stage would be set for graduate senior and Drury transfer Conley Garrison, who provided a near-flawless shooting day and was one of three Paladins in double figures, as he led the way with 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field, including going 5-for-6 from three-point land. He also dished out three assists, ripped down a pair of rebounds and recorded a steal.

Joining Garrison in double figures in Saturday’s win over Wofford was Jalen Slawson, who finished with a double-double of 16 points and 10 boards, delivering what was another all-around solid performance. For Slawson, it was sixth double-double performance of the season and his 24th double-figure scoring effort in 29 games so far in the 2021-22 season. In addition to his 16 and 10, the senior from Summerville, S.C., also added three assists, two steals and blocked a shot. Slawson connected on 4-of-13 shots from the field, including 1-for-5 from three-point land, and was a perfect 7-for-7 from the line. 

Furman sophomore guard Marcus Foster II completed the double-figure scorers for the Paladins, adding 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field and a 2-for-3 effort at the charity stripe. For Foster, it marked his 11th double-figure effort of the season, including his sixth in his last seven outings. J.P. Pegues was big off the bench for the Paladins, as he posted eight points, three boards, two assists and a block.

Wofford was led by 6-8 forward B.J. Mack, as he posted 17 points on 7-of-16 shooting from the field, which included a 2-for-6 effort from three-point land. Additionally, Mack added seven boards, two blocks and an assist to close out a solid afternoon. 

Mack was joined in double figures by Ryan Larson, who added 12 points, while Max Klesmit finished with 11 after scoring a season-low three points in the first meeting this season between the Paladins and Terriers. Isaiah Bigelow rounded out the double-figure scorers for the Terriers, as he posted his seventh double-figure scoring effort of the season.

Furman finished the contest connecting on 47.2% (25-of-53) shots from the field, which included a 38.5% (10-of-26) shooting effort from three-point land. Wofford concluded the contest by connecting on 45.8% (22-of-48) from the field, and finished the day connecting on 39.1% (9-of-23) from three-point land. 

With its 10 three-pointers in Saturday’s win, Furman now has 345 three-pointers this season, which is a new single-season school record, which was previously set at 338 triples during the 2017-18 season. 

The Paladins finished the contest with advantages in total assists (17-14), points in the paint (30-26), fast-break points (6-2), and bench scoring (32-16). Wofford finished the game holding advantages in total rebounds (30-29) and second-chance points (10-7).

Wofford finished the contest connecting on 66.7% (16-of-24) from the charity stripe, while Furman connected on 90.9% (10-of-11) of its free throws on the afternoon.

How It Happened:

Wofford got out of the gates quickly against the Paladins, scoring the first 10 points of the contest, as the Terriers used a pair of Morgan Safford free throws, a B.J. Mack jumper and three-pointers by Max Klesmit and Ryan Larson to assume the early double-digit lead and force an early Furman timeout. 

Out of the timeout, Furman turned up its defensive pressure and made life difficult for the Terriers, using a 19-2 run of its own to take control of the game, with Conley Garrison’s three-pointer following a Terrier turnover giving the Paladins their first lead of the day, at 12-10, with 12:26 left in the opening half of play.

Safford briefly calmed things for Wofford on the other end, as his layup off the right side with 11:55 left in the half tied the game briefly, however, Garrison answered with a three on the other end to give the Paladins the lead for good for the remainder of the opening frame, as Furman assumed a 15-12 lead with 11:37 remaining in the opening half.

Furman made scoring tough the remainder of the opening half for Wofford, with the Paladins eventually extending its lead to double digits prior to the halftime break.

After an Isaiah Bigelow three-pointer got Wofford to within 24-20 with 5:18 remaining in the half, the Paladins would close the half strong, using an 11-3 run to take a 35-23 lead into the halftime break. In the opening half of play, Furman’s defense was especially stellar, holding the Terriers to just a 31.8% (7-of-22) shooting effort from the field. 

Wofford closed down the margin quickly in the second half, using a 13-5 spurt out of the locker room in the second half, cutting the Furman lead to 40-36 with 15:46 remaining in the game following a three-point play the old-fashioned way by Mack. 

The Terriers would never let the game get out of reach again, with Furman assuming no more than a six-point lead for the remainder of the game.

The Terriers would cut the Furman lead to one on a pair of occasions in the second half before eventually taking their first lead since early in the opening half of play.

A three-pointer by Mack with 11:29 left cut the Paladin lead to 47-46 before J.P. Pegues answered with a jumper in the lane to extend the Furman lead back to three on the ensuing possession.

With 9:27 left, a Safford layup in the lane would once again cut the Paladin lead to one, at 49-48, however, Pegues was primed for the challenge once again for the Paladins, as his three-pointer on the other end put Furman back up four, at 52-48, with 9:13 left. 

After Marcus Foster gave Furman a 57-52 lead on a three-point platy the old-fashioned way with 7:13 left, Wofford would reel off six-straight points on three foul shots from Austin Patterson, and following a Safford steal, a three-pointer from Larson, which gave the Terriers a 58-57 lead with 6:24 remaining.

The Terriers weren’t finished, increasing the lead to as much as five,, with Larson going 1-of-2 from the line on a one-and-one bonus following a Mike Bothwell foul to give the Terriers a 62-57 lead with 5:08 left. It capped a 10-0 run for Wofford, which saw the Terriers seemingly seize control of the game. 

However, the Paladins would show their mettle down the stretch. A corner by Garrison sliced the Terrier lead to just two, at 62-60, with just under five minutes remaining, and following a 1-of-2 performance from Safford at the charity stripe to increase Wofford’s lead back to three on the other end, Jalen Slawson took an alley-oop pass from Garrett Hien and laid it in off the glass, bringing the Paladins back to within one, at 63-62, with 4:07 remaining.

After Garrison picked up Furman’s ninth infraction of the half, Klesmit went to the line for the Terriers for a one-and-one bonus with 3:51 remaining, however, he missed the front end, and the ball was rebounded by Bothwell, and it was Bothwell who drove to the basket on the other end for a layup, drawing a foul from Klesmit in the process. Bothwell converted the three-point play the old-fashioned way, giving the Paladins a 65-63 lead with 3:28 remaining.

It would be Bothwell’s lone three points of the game, however, the senior’s play and sense of the moment was pivotal, as his three-point play gave the Paladins the momentum they needed to finish the job.

A Klesmit layup tied the game, 65-65, on the other end, however, Slawson responded with his only made triple of the game with 2:35 remaining on the other end, giving Furman a 68-65 lead, and it would be one Furman would not relinquish the rest of the way. 

Following a Klesmit missed three and a Mack missed layup following an offensive rebound, Slawson got the ball with just under two minutes left and was fouled by Bigelow. Slawson would go to the line for a one-and-one opportunity with 1:56 remaining as a result of Wofford’s eighth team foul of the half, and he knocked down both ends, giving the Paladins a 70-65 lead.

Mack missed a three on Wofford’s ensuing possession, however, Slawson, who was trying to put the game out of reach, missed a three on the other for the Paladins,  and Wofford got the rebound, as Bigelow would get fouled with 1:08 remaining, and he went to the line for a two-shot foul following the 10th team foul by Furman’s Garrett Hien. Bigelow made both, cutting Furman’s lead to three, at 70-67.

Furman senior guard Alex Hunter, who will finish his career as one of the best caretakers of the basketball in Furman hoops history, committed a rare turnover with just over a minute remaining, and Wofford’s Larson came with a steal before going to the floor, and called a timeout. A bizarre incident ensued, as Furman’s Hien was whistled for a technical foul for failing to fully step over Larson en route to his team bench, and Larson went back to the floor. After a lengthy review, Hien picked up a technical foul, meaning Wofford would get two shots and the basketball.

Larson made both foul shots with 53 seconds remaining to cut Furman’s lead to one, at 70-69. After running the shot clock all the way down, Mack’s jumper just inside the three-point line was missed with 22 seconds remaining was off the mark, but Klesmit ran down the offensive rebound for Wofford with 19 ticks remaining, and instead of calling a timeout, the Terriers opted to play it out, and Mack’s second shot inside the final minute—this time on a right elbow three-point attempt—was also off the mark and Garrison rebounded the ball as time expired, and Furman was able sweat another one-point win over Wofford at The Well.

Postgame Press Conference:

Conley Garrison (left) and Jalen Slawson (right)
Furman head coach Bob Richey

Up Next: 

Furman will be on the road next Wednesday night at the Pete Hanna Center to face the Samford Bulldogs (18-9, 8-7 SoCon), as the Paladins push for a top two spot for the upcoming SoCon Tournament and a fifth 20-win season in the past six campaigns. Tip-off for that contest is set for 8 p.m. EST.

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