Playing the second game of a three-game homestand and coming off an 85-82 loss last time out against Big South member High Point, Furman spent the past couple practices trying find the right focus and intensity on the defensive end of the floor.
Against a team picked to finish second in the Big South Conference—the Winthrop Eagles—Furman looked to find that grit and tenacity, which has helped the Paladins to big wins over Belmont and South Carolina in the non-conference schedule. Furman was even dominant at times, but most importantly, steady on both ends of the floor en route to an 82-67 win over the Eagles Saturday afternoon at Timmons Arena.
The win sees Furman improve to 7-3 overall, while Winthrop dropped to 5-6. The Paladins improved to 89-15 at Timmons Arena since the start of the 2015-16 season.
The Paladins had four players finish in double figures, led by Jalen Slawson’s season-high 25 points, while Mike Bothwell added 16 and J.P. Pegues finished with 15, with 12 of those coming in the first half. By contrast, Slawson finished by scoring 19 of his season-high 25 points in the second half. Garrett Hien rounded out the double-figure scorers, with 11 points.
Furman finished the contest shooting 54.2% from the field (32-of-59), while holding the Eagles to 49.0% (24-of-49) from the field. The Paladins connected on 36.4% (8-of-22) from three-point land, while the Eagles finished the game connecting on just 23.8% (5-of-21) from beyond the arc.
The Paladins’ Saturday afternoon win helped avenge losses in their last two against the Eagles, including an 85-80 setback last season at Winthrop Coliseum, which was a game that saw Slawson record what is believed to be the school’s first-ever triple double against the Eagles, when he posted 15 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds in the five-point setback. For the second-straight game, Slawson picked up two early fouls and finished the opening half of play with only six points. In the second half, Slawson exploded for 19 points, highlighted by a couple more highlight-reel dunks.
The senior from Summerville, S.C., connected on 8-of-12 shots from the field, and hit two clutch threes at key moments of the game in the second half, as he went 2-of-3 from three-point range. Coming into the contest, Slawson was shooting just 25.0% from three-point range this season and had connected on just 5-of-20 from long-range.
In the second half alone, Slawson was able to connect on 7-of-9 shots from the field and finished going 7-for-8 from the charity stripe.
Slawson’s eight point effort last time out was a season-low, and he responded accordingly by scoring a season-high 25.
His 20+ point scoring effort marked the second time this season he has scored 20 or more points in a game, as his previous season high was a 22-point performance in a 102-74 win over Tusculum a couple of weeks ago. He has now scored in double figures in nine out of 10 games this season for the Paladins. In addition to his 25-point effort, Slawson also added five rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
Slawson and Bothwell were able to help Furman take control of the game in the second half, as the duo was able to post 29 of Furman’s 41 total points in the second half.
While both picked up two fouls in the opening half, J.P. Pegues was able to help pick up the scoring slack, as he scored 12 of his 15 points in the opening half of play, connected on 4-of-7 shots from three-point range in the opening half. He finished 5-of-10 from the field and 5-of-8 from three-point land to finish with his 15 points.
Winthrop ended the night with three in double figures, with Kelton Talford posting a team-high 19 points, while Kasen Harrison added 17 points and Cory Hightower finished with 12. Furman evened the all-time series with the Eagles 7-7, and head coach Bob Richey improved to 7-1 all-time against Winthrop head coach Mark Prosser.
In terms of the game on the floor, the Paladins ended up holding advantages in points in the paint (42-38), second-chance points (12-2), bench (13-3), fast-break points (16-3), total assists (19-12), total rebounds (34-23) and points in the paint (46-38). The Paladins finished with 12 turnovers, while the Eagles committed 13 miscues.
This season so far, the Southern Conference was 6-7 against the Big South, as the two leagues more even in terms of strength than they have in previous seasons. With Furman’s win over Winthrop, coupled with VMI’s 77-74 win over Radford, the SoCon improved its seasonal mark to 8-7 against its rival conference.
How It Happened:
Furman and Winthrop engaged in what was a high intensity basketball game Saturday inside Timmons Arena between a couple of programs looking to find some stability as the two prepare for league play going forward in the coming month.
The Paladins appeared to begin to take control of the basketball game towards with just over five minutes remaining in the half. Following a Kelton Talford layup, which trimmed Furman’s lead to 31-30 with 5:04 remaining in the opening frame, the Paladins commenced a 10-0 run, starting with a three-pointer from Ben VanderWal in transition and concluding with a three-point play the old-fashioned way following a dunk in transition by Tyrese Hughey, as he foul shot gave Furman a 41-30 lead with 2:25 left in the opening half.
From there, the Eagles launched a furious 9-0 rally for the remainder of the half to carry the momentum into the halftime locker room. The Eagles run started with a Kasen Harrison free throw and following a missed three-pointer by Mike Bothwell, saw Corey Hightower answer with a three on the other end, as Winthrop had trimmed the Paladin lead to seven, at 41-34, with just 1:11 remaining in the half.
With Furman leading by five (41-36) with 10 seconds remaining in the half, Winthrop called timeout to draw up a play to end the half, and it ended up leading to a corner three-pointer by Hightower as time expired in the opening frame, and Furman held just a 41-39 lead as the two teams entered the halftime locker room.
Furman’s first points of the second half would come from long-range, and it would end up signaling a big half for Jalen Slawson, as he connected on an early three-pointer–one of his two in the contest–to stake the Paladins to a 44-39 lead just 36 seconds into the second half.
Winthrop kept the game within reach for much of the second half, despite never taking a lead.
With just over six minutes remaining, a Talford layup got the Eagles back to within six, at 69-63, as Furman seemingly had trouble creating the kind of separation it needed to on the scoreboard to be comfortable up to that point in the second half.
However, the Paladins commenced a 9-0 run over the next 3:10 of game clock, which was highlighted by another Slawson three-pointer and a Garrett Hien dunk as a part of the mini-run, which helped the Paladins assume the seemingly comfortable cushion they were looking for, taking a 15-point, 78-63, lead with 3:10 remaining.
Furman’s lead would never be trimmed by more than 13 the rest of the way, as the Paladins held off the Eagles down the stretch to snap a two-game skid in the series.
Furman will return to action on Tuesday night with a trip to Raleigh to face the North Carolina State Wolfpack. Tip-off is slated for 6:30 p.m. EST.
Postgame Press Conference: