Furman dunks Belmont

Furman 89, Belmont 74

Furman’s season is now officially underway for most who follow the program. With an array of dunks and displays of overall athleticism that one might have thought they would see in the season-opener against non-division I foe North Greenville in the season opener four days earlier, were in full effect in the 89-74 win over perennial mid-major power Belmont Friday night before a crowd of 2,092 fans on-hand at a rowdy Timmons Arena.

It was a big win for the SoCon, and a bigger win for Furman’s basketball program, which improved to 2-0 overall, while Belmont fell to 1-1 after opening the season with a thrilling buzzer-beating, 70-69, win over Mid-America Conference member Ohio in the season-opener. The win helped the Paladins avenge what was a heartbreaking 95-89 loss at Belmont last season, and will see Bob Richey’s club head to Charleston next week with plenty of momentum heading into the opening game of the Charleston Shriners Classic against Penn State on Thursday, with tip-off for that contest slated for 11:30 am.

The Paladins finished the contest shooting 58.3% from the field (35-of-60), while holding the Bruins to just 45.3% (29-of-64) shooting for the game, d Furman showed why it was the preseason SoCon favorite for a majority of the evening against a good opponent from the Missouri Valley Conference, and the win resembled in some ways the Paladins’ 87-63 win over former Missouri Valley foe Loyola-Chicago some three years earlier at Timmons Arena.

Leading the way for the Paladins were four players in double figures, with Mike Bothwell leading all scorers with 25 points, while Jalen Slawson added his first double-double of the 2022-23 season and the 11th of his career, totaling 17 points and 12. The native of Summerville, S.C., also dished out five assists and recorded three steals. Among the many highlights for the Furman’s above-the-rim display on Friday night was Slawson’s aerial array of dunks, with one of those being an alley-oop reverse slam off a lob from Bothwell late in the opening half of play.

Rounding out the Paladins in double figures were Garrett Hien and Marcus Foster, who added 13 and 11 points, respectively to round out the double-figure scorers for the Paladins.

Bothwell finished the contest connecting on 10-of-17 shots from the field and was 5-for-6 from the charity stripe to equal his game-high 25 points. Bothwell also added six rebounds, dished out three assists and tallied a steal.

Slawson finished by scoring 13 of his 17 points in the second half of play and finished connecting on 6-of-10 shots from the field and like Bothwell, connected on 5-of-6 free throws. Hien came up particularly impressive in the second half for the Paladins in one stretch, which saw the Paladins take control of the game down the stretch. He finished the contest by connecting on 5-of-6 shots from the field.

Belmont also finished the game with four players in double figures, with Cade Tyson and Ben Sheppard leading the scoring totals for a second-straight game for the Bruins, posting a team-high 18 points. Drew Friberg, a graduate transfer from Princeton, added 17 points and freshman guard Ja’Kobi Gillespie rounded out the double-figure scorers with 13 points.

The Paladins won the game on the scoreboard as a result of winning some key statistical battles in decisive fashion, including winning owning the boards, as Furman claimed a 42-22 advantage on the backboards, including 11 offensive rebounds, which led to a 12-5 advantage in second chance points. It helped the Paladins overcome an uncharacteristic 16 turnovers, as the Bruins ended the night owning a 15-10 advantage in second-chance points.

The Paladins also owned a decisive advantage in points in the paint (52-32) and added advantages in total assists (20-8) and fast-break points (16-7) Belmont held a slight advantage in bench scoring (23-21).

How It Happened:

Furman came out running and was the aggressor of the game from the opening tip, racing out to an early 10-5 lead over the opening 4:11 of the contest, and established a fast and furious pace from the outset of the matchup between a pair of high-caliber mid-major programs. It was a pace that Belmont head coach Casey Alexander and his Bruins had to figure how a way to slow down.

The Paladins used a Slawson jumper in the paint, and a J.P. Pegues layup in transition to help establish the pace of the game. Belmont got points on a layup from Ja’Kobi Gillespie and a three-pointer from Drew Friberg in the opening four minutes, to equal its first total at first media timeout. Slawson got the Paladin fan base off its feet for the first of several times, dishing out a no-look pass to Garrett Hien for a two-handed stuff to give the Paladins an 8-5 lead.

On the ensuing Belmont possession, Mike Bothwell came up with a loose ball and went in for an uncontested two-handed jam to help Furman head into the first media timeout with a 10-5 lead and the house was bouncing.

Furman continued its strong play in the middle eight minutes of the opening half, using a 9-3 run coming out of the media timeout to increase their lead to 19-8 following a Tyrese Hughey layup with 11:35 remaining in the first half. The Bruins would mount a rally from that point, and for the remainder of the first half, would play some of their best basketball of the night at Timmons Arena.

The Bruins would trim an 11-point Furman lead to just two over the next three-and-a-half minutes, with Sheppard coming to life shooting the basketball from the perimeter, as nine of the next of 11 points for the Bruins came on three-pointers, with two from Sheppard. Sheppard added a layup and Cade Tyson provided another three during the 11-2 Bruins run, as Sheppard’s second triple in the flurry cut Furman’s lead to just one possession, at 21-19, with 8:13 remaining.

After Mike Bothwell stretched Furman’s lead back to four on the next possession, the Bruins continued to put the pressure on from three-point range, with Drew Friberg canning one of his four three-pointers in the game, cutting the Paladins’ lead back to a point, at 23-22.

After nearly scoreless minutes, Belmont assumed what was its first lead since the score was 5-2 when Sheppard connected on one of his four first-half threes with 5:42 remaining to give the Bruins a 25-23 lead. The Paladins tied the game moments later when Garrett Hien got his own rebound off a missed initial shot and put it in off the glass, tying the game, 25-25, with just over five minutes remaining in the first half.

The Bruins wouldn’t go away easily, however, as Friberg pump-faked Slawson to free up space to hit a three from the top of the key with 4:37 remaining in the half to make it a 28-25 Belmont lead. That lead wouldn’t last long, as Marcus Foster hit one of the bigger shots of the night to tie the game, 28-28, with 4:20 remaining. Evan Brauns scored on a layup in the lane with 3:55 left to put Belmont back up two.

Carter Whitt responded with a three from the left elbow just in front of the students section on the opposite side of the court 15 seconds later, giving the Paladins the lead back by a single point, 31-30.

Slawson came up with one of his three steals on the day and he found Mike Bothwell in the open floor with the pass, and he converted the layup to increase Furman’s lead back to three, 33-30, with 2:52 left. After the Bruins got a layup in the paint from JaKobi Gillespie, it set the stage for one of the highlights of the night, as Bothwell returned the favor to Slawson, lobbing a perfectly time alley-oop to Slawson, who caught it baseline before converting the reverse slam and bringing the better than 2,000 in attendance to a loud roar and giving the Paladins a 35-32 lead.

Belmont promptly tied the basketball game when Isaiah Walker connected on three with 1:29 remaining. Friberg and Bothwell would trade baskets to close out the half as the two teams headed to the half all tied, 37-37.

In the second half, the two teams play a tense opening eight minutes, with Furman never able to assume larger than a four point lead, and actually trailed 44-42 at the first media timeout of the second half following a Cade Tyson layup to make it a 44-42 game with 15:42 remaining. With the Paladins leading 52-50 with a little over 10 minutes remaining, Furman’s Carter Whitt answered a Sheppard layup with one of the home team’s eight triples in the contest, increasing the lead to five.

A big defensive stop from the Paladins, and a pair of Slawson foul shots after he was fouled on a jumper in the lane increased the Paladin lead to its largest to that stage of the second half, at 57-50, with 9:43 remaining. Friberg then answered with a three 10 seconds later, getting it back to a two-possession game. A Whitt layup put Furman back up six, setting the stage for what was the turning point of the game.

Leading 56-50, Furman’s Hien re-entered the lineup with 8:24 remaining, and he would play a pivotal role on both ends in allowing the Paladins to take complete control of the basketball game. In a sequence of 32 seconds, Hien registered a layup, blocked a shot, and canned a three-pointer to stake Furman to a double-digit lead, matching their largest of the night, which came in the opening half, as his triple gave the Paladins a 64-53 lead with 7:18 remaining.

Furman would see its lead dip below double-digits only once more the remainder of the game, with a Tyson jumper getting the Bruins to within nine (65-56) with just under six minutes remaining.

Fittingly, it was a trio of Slawson dunks that capped the Furman win in emphatic fashion. The first came off a missed Marcus Foster layup attempt, as the ball caromed off the front rim and right into the on-coming path of Slawson, who hammered home the follow dunk with authority, sealing his 11th double-double performance of his career, and giving the Paladins a 79-65 lead with 1:46 left. The second dunk came just nine seconds later, as he drove baseline to finish off a two-handed stuff to make it an 81-68 Paladin lead. The third came with just 20 seconds remaining, and provided the final points of the contest, as Slawson took a feed from Pegues and drove baseline for the one-handed tomahawk jam to provide the final score of 89-74.

The Paladins were highly efficient in all areas in the early-season statement win, including shooting the three-point ball. Furman finished the contest making 8-of-19 long-range attempts to finish connecting on an impressive 42.1% of their shots from three-point land. The Bruins went 12-for-31 from long range to finish off a 38.7% shooting effort from long range.


–Furman improved to 86-14 overall at Timmons Arena since the start of the 2015-16 season.

–Frank Selvy, who will be inducted into the College Basketball Hall Fame next weekend, was honored at halftime.

–Furman head coach Bob Richey improved to 113-46 as the head coach of the Furman in this his sixth season at the helm of the basketball program.

–Furman claimed its first win over Belmont since 1998, and evened the all-time series, 2-2.

–Furman won its 154th game since the start of the 2015-16 season.

Post-Game Press Conference:

Furman head coach Bob Richey
Furman forward Jalen Slawson (left)/Furman guard Mike Bothwell (right)

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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