Furman uses Alex Williams’ second half spark to get past feisty S.C. State

On a day when most had Furman fans had their collective attention on the prospects of head coach Clay Hendrix’s Paladin football team and its second round FCS playoff game in San Antonio at Incarnate Word, Furman head basketball Bob Richey and his basketball team made alterations to its schedule to accommodate a ‘watch party’ for the football game on the Timmons Arena big screen at the conclusion of its basketball game against South Carolina State, moving the game from its original 4 p.m. start time up to noon.

Furman sophomore forward Alex Williams was the star of Furman’s 88-76 win over the Bulldogs, as he posted his career-high 15 points in a key 19-4 run in the second half, allowing Furman to finally pull away from its pesky visitors from Orangeburg, as the Paladins would surge to an 88-76 win over the South Carolina State Bulldogs Saturday afternoon inside the friendly confines of Timmons Arena.

It took Williams only nine minutes of floor action to establish his new career-high for points, and the sophomore forward recently returned from a six-game suspension just this past week, seeing limited action in a four-point road win at Appalachian State. His 15 points against SC State came on a 6-of-7 shooring performance from the field, which included a 3-for-4 effort from three-point range. Williams also added a pair of rebounds.

Marcus Foster and Mike Bothwell actually led the scoring efforts for the Paladins, finishing with 16 points apiece, with Bothwell also adding six assists and two steals, while Foster added four assists and three thefts. Jalen Slawson led Furman’s efforts on the glass, bringing down eight boards to go along with 11 points, four assists and three blocks.

Garrett Hien rounded out the Paladins in double figures, posting 11 points to go with six rebounds and an assist.

The Bulldogs were led individually by Jordan Simpson, who scored 14 points, dished out three assists and added three steals. Raquan Brown added 12 points, four rebounds and had three steals, while Rakeim Gary rounded the double-figure scorers for South Carolina State, with 10.

The Paladins won their fourth-straight to improve to 6-2 overall, while SC State, which was playing its ninth-straight road game to start the 2022-23 basketball season, fell to 1-8. It was also Furman’s 30th win in their last 31 non-conference home games played at Timmons.

The win also saw Furman improve to 4-0 inside the friendly confines this season and improved to 88-14 at home since the start of the 2015-16 season. It was the start of a three-game homestand for the Paladins, who will battle High Point Tuesday night before battling another Big South foe at Timmons Arena next Saturday, as Winthrop comes to town.

Furman finished the night connecting on 56.1% (32-of-57) of its shots for the game, while knocking down 36.4% (8-of-22) from three-point range. The Bulldogs connected on 47.0% (17-of-36), which included a 25.0% (4-of-16) from three-point range.

Furman finished holding advantages in total assists (22-21), total rebounds (33-30), and fast break points (16-10). The Bulldogs held advantages in points from turnovers (19-18), points in the paint (48-44), second-chance points (16-13), and bench scoring (41-27).

How it Happened:

The Paladins would run out to an early 11-1 lead prior to the first media timeout, however, the Bulldogs would respond with a 11-2 run to cut the Paladin lead to one, at 13-12, following a layup by Jordan Simpson with 13:33 to play in the opening half.

At times in the opening half, the Paladins tried force the issue against the Bulldogs, playing right into the type of helter-skelter game new head coach Eric Martin was trying to make it, and the Paladins would turn the ball over a total of 12 times in the opening 20 minutes of basketball, and finished the game with a season-high 20, which is uncharacteristic of Bob Richey teams during his time as the head coach.

That would lead to 13 of South Carolina State’s 38 first-half points, with the Paladins taking a narrow 42-38 lead to the break on the strength of a 63.0% (17-of-27) shooting performance in the opening half.

In the second half, the Bulldogs kept up the frenetic pace, which had been instilled by their head coach–a disciple of Bob Huggins at West Virginia–and it would see the Bulldogs keep the game close for much of the day.

Sometimes coaches have a sixth sense of being able to know when a particular player might be ready to respond and have a big day. With Furman clinging to a 55-54 lead following a Cameron Jones layup, that’s when Furman head coach Bob Richey decided to call upon the services of Alex Williams, and it turned out to be a touch of genius from the sixth-year head coach, as the sophomore forward responded accordingly to his most meaningful playing time of the 2022-23 season.

With the Paladins up 55-54, point guard Joe Anderson would set Williams up for his first two points of his career-high scoring afternoon, feeding for an easy layup in the paint and helping the Paladins to a 57-54 Paladin lead. Rashaan Edwards then connected on a jumper for the Bulldogs that brought them back within a point, however, Mike Bothwell answered with a layup to give the Paladins a three-point cushion once again, at 59-56.

After a missed shot by the Bulldogs on the other end, Williams splashed down his first three-pointer of the season, bringing the crowd to its feet, and that roar grew even louder when Williams drew a charge on the other end to give the Paladins the basketball back.

Now with all the momentum and a 62-56 advantage, Hien found Williams with a beautiful low-post feed, and Williams converted the layup to give the Paladins an eight-point lead with just under 10 minutes remaining.

Following a Rakeim Gary foul, Furman would take a double-digit lead for the first time since early in the game, when Alex Williams rebounded his own missed foul shot on a 1-and-1 opportunity, and the ball eventually found its way to Foster in the lane and he scooped an under-handed pitch to Hien, who slammed it home to give the Paladins a 66-56 lead.

A missed layup by the Bulldogs was rebounded by Furman point guard JP Pegues, and he found Foster up the floor in transition, and it would be Foster, who would find a wide-open Williams for a corner three and a 69-56 Paladin lead.

Williams would finish off his scoring flurry in fitting fashion and would give the Paladins their biggest lead of the day to that point with seven-and-a-half minutes to play. Williams’ third three came off another feed from Foster from, as the Paladins now owned a 72-56 lead at the end of what had been a 19-4 run. All told, Williams scored 15 of the 19 points during the scoring flurry.

The Paladins would maintain a double-digit lead the rest of the way, with the lead growing as large as 17 on two occasions.

Furman returns to the floor on Tuesday night when it faces an extremely talented High Point basketball team, which is off to a 7-1 start following its 93-88 win over North Florida Saturday. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at Timmons Arena.

Postgame press conference (Head coach Bob Richey)

Postgame press conference (Players Alex Williams and Garrett Hien)

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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