Bothwell’s ‘dagger’ finally buries Stephen F. Austin

Bothwell Delivers in ‘The Well’ Again

Mike Bothwell drove baseline and knocked down a floater from about eight feet out on the baseline, and Furman held off Stephen F. Austin for a thrilling 72-70 non-conference win Saturday evening in the second of the three-game Greenville Winter Invitational at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena.

Bothwell’s career-best 36-point performance was part of what was a remarkable night for the senior guard from Cleveland Heights, OH, as he finished the contest going 12-of-14 from the line and was a perfect 11-for-11 from the line, scoring 21 of his 36 points in the second half.

Additionally, Bothwell added three assists and three rebounds to his overall statistical output. Bothwell scored Furman’s final 12 points of the game to help the Paladins close out their eighth win of the season.

The win saw the Paladins improve to 8-4 overall on the season, while Stephen F. Austin dropped to 6-5.

It wasn’t the first time Bothwell has delivered in the clutch in the same venue for the Paladins. During his sophomore season, Bothwell’s clutch layup with as a sophomore with 12.1 seconds remaining at Bon Secours Wellness Arena to help Furman to a 67-66 win over conference rival Wofford also comes to mind.

Bothwell also has other performances worthy of note in non-conference games in his career, with his game-tying three as time wound down against College of Charleston, as well as two game-extending shots against High Point in a win last season, and also a key three-point play the old-fashioned way in a clutch neutral court win over UT-Arlington in a neutral court battle in an MTE.

Not to be outdone was the performance of Jalen Slawson, who posted 16 points and 10 rebounds, accounting for his fourth double-double of the season and the 14th of his career, did so by connecting on 6-of-9 shots from the field, including going 2-for-2 from three-point land. Slawson also added two steals and an assist in the win.

Furman finished the game with another strong shooting performance, connecting on 52.2% (24-of-46) from the field, including blistering the nets at a 66.7% (16-of-24) clip in the opening half of play alone. The Paladins finished the game connecting on just 28.6% (6-of-21) from three-point range, however, shot the ball well from long-range in the opening half, knocking down 5-of-10 long-range efforts.

Stephen F. Austin was led in the contest by three players in double figures, with Latrell Josell finishing with 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field, including 6-of-11 from three-point land. Joining Jossell in double figures for the Lumberjacks were both AJ Cajuste (18 pts) and Nigel Hawkins (13 pts).

The Lumberjacks finished the game connecting on 41.4% (24-of-58) from the field for the game, and that came after suffering through one of their worst shooting halves of the season, as SFA connected on just 26.5% (9-of-34) shooting from the field in the opening half of play, which included a 1-of-8 effort from long-range and found themselves down by 22 points (44-22) at the half.  

The Lumberjacks, which came into the game against the Paladins causing more turnovers than any team in college basketball at over 21 per game, used that strength to get back into the game in the second half, as the Lumberjacks outscored the Paladins 14-4 on points off turnovers in the second half. SFA also shot the ball extremely well in the second half, connecting on 62.5% (15-of-24) of its shots in the second half, including a 58.3% effort (7-of-12) from three-point range in the second half, helping the Lumberjacks even take a late lead in the game before seeing Bothwell’s heroics end all thoughts of a second-straight road win.

Furman ended the game owning advantages in total rebounds (33-30), second chance points (8-6), fast break points (8-7) and points in the paint (34-28). SFA would claim advantages in points from turnovers (20-14), total assists (15-14), and bench points (23-5).

Furman has now turned the ball over at least 19 times in three of its last four games, with a season-high 20 turnovers against both North Carolina State and South Carolina State. The Paladins, however, overcame those uncharacteristic miscue-laden performances to win three out of three of those games. While it might not have been pretty at times, Furman is 8-4 and is far from having played its best basketball this season. That could be a bad sign for the rest of the SoCon.

How It Happened:

When “The Field of 68” decided to make Furman-Stephen F. Austin their first-ever broadcast from Greenville’s Bon Secours Wellness Arena, they had no idea what they were getting into. With the broadcast team of Terrence Oglesby, John Fanta, and Rob Dauster on-hand to both call the game and sample a variety of food options from Greenville’s rapidly growing culinary brand throughout the southeast, few would have expected a 22-point Furman halftime lead turning into the game that the broadcast team had originally foreseen when choosing the mid-major blockbuster matchup. However, that’s exactly what would happen.

Things seemed to be going extremely well at ‘The Well’, as Furman delighted both its hometown fans and neutrals alike in taking a 22-point, 44-22, lead into the halftime locker room. Highlight-reel dunks from Jalen Slawson, including a follow slam off a Mike Bothwell miss, which was finished with emphasis, an over-the-head pass from Bothwell to Garrett Hien for a rim-rattling dunk, and an alley-oop from J.P. Pegues-to-Ben VanderWal to open the second half had given the Paladins their biggest lead of the day, at 46-22, however, Stephen F. Austin hadn’t traveled this far to lose.

In fact, the last time the Lumberjacks came this far east to play a game was on Nov. 26, 2019, when the Lumberjacks knocked off No. 1 Duke, 85-83, at Cameron Indoor Stadium, which was a day when most of the nation were fans of the SFA Lumberjacks, as they pinned a huge regular-season win for mid-major basketball on that night. However, Furman would find out just why the well-coached Lumberjacks are so difficult to play against, and why they are often referred to as “Press U” in the second half.

The Lumberjacks would reel off a 18-2 run following VanderWal’s dunk and had cut Furman’s seemingly comfortable and safe 24-point, 46-22, lead to just six (46-40) less than five minutes into the second half, and did so following a pair of Derrick Tezeno foul shots with 15:04 remaining in the game. Game on.

It looked as though the Paladins might be able to stretch their lead back out to double digits again and that the Paladins may have weathered the purple wave of momentum forged by the Lumberjacks out of the locker room, as Bothwell’s jumper stretched Furman’s lead back to 10, at 53-43, on a jumper in the paint with 12:47 remaining.

However, the Lumberjacks stormed back with five-straight points on a three-pointer from Latrell Jossell and a powerful dunk by Nana Antwi-Boasiako, getting SFA to within five, which was as close as the visitor’s had been since it was 10-5 at the 14:46 mark of the opening half.

After a Slawson layup increased Furman’s lead back to seven with a little over 11 minutes remaining, the Lumberjacks showed little sign of slowing their furious rally, using a Nigel Hawkins layup in the paint and following a Sadaidrienne Hall steal, got a three-pointer from Jossell from the top of the key to SFA within two, at 55-53, with 9:25 left.  On the ensuing possession, Bothwell took the ball aggressively to the basket but was fouled and knocked down a pair of free throws to get the Paladins back to a two-possession lead.

After SFA cut Furman’s led to two, following a pair of AJ Cajuste foul shots, Jalen Slawson hit one of his two clutch three pointers of the night, staking Furman back to a five-point lead, as his top of the key three was nothing but net, giving the Paladins a 60-55 advantage with 8:43 remaining.

SFA would score the next five points on three free throws from Hall and Cajuste, and then a second-chance opportunity layup by Jossell would tie the contest, 60-60, with 7:49 remaining. Furman would have a chance grab control of the game, and SFA a chance to their first lead since it was 5-3 at the 17:15 mark in the first half, however, neither team could manufacture points for better than three points until Bothwell went back to the line following a foul by Jossell and the senior went back to the line and calmly knocked down a pair of foul shots to put Furman back on top, 62-60, with 4:27 left.

After two more Bothwell free throws gave the Paladins a 64-60 lead with 3:31 remaining, the Lumberjacks would take their first lead since leading 5-3 in the opening three minutes of the game, as the Lumberjacks used a Jossell triple and then after VanderWal missed a three on the other end for the Paladins, another Jossell three from the left elbow gave SFA a 66-64 lead with 2:25 left, and the momentum seemed to be all with the other team wearing purple. Furman would take the ball to halfcourt and would take their final timeout of the game with 2:12 remaining.

However, good teams respond, and Furman is a pretty good basketball team, with one of the best players in mid-major basketball, in Mike Bothwell. Following two more free throws from him on the other end, which tied the game, 66-66, with 2:08 left. The Lumberjacks would take a one-point lead after Cajuste went 1-for-2 at the line on the other end, making it a 67-66 SFA lead with just under two minutes left. In the process, Garrett Hien, who provided with some valuable minutes, especially on the defensive end of the floor on Saturday evening, fouled out of the contest.

Slawson mis-timed his jump on the other end and it was a rare miss on a dunk attempt, and after Boasiako came away with the rebound for SFA, it allowed them to build on their lead, which they would, as Cajuste knocked down about a 12-foot jumper to make it a 69-66 SFA lead with 1:37 left. Again, Bothwell took the ball strong to the hoop, and his layup just came off the front of the rim, which could have allowed him to have an opportunity at a three-point play the old-fashioned way, however, instead he would knock down a pair of foul shots following the Hawkins foul to get the Paladins back to within a point, at 69-68, with 70 seconds remaining.

It appeared that Jossell had banked in another three, which would have given SFA a 72-68 lead, however, upon review, Jossell did not get the three off in time and the shot clock expired, giving the Paladins the possession down by a point with 40 seconds left. Bothwell quickly drove to the top of the key and connected on a jumper, which hit the front rim before bouncing over and then in, giving the Paladins a 70-69 lead with 27 seconds remaining.

SFA came down and a pass underneath was mishandled, and Furman’s Slawson came up with the ball, and he called timeout when the Paladins didn’t have one left. A class B technical was assessed with 9.6 seconds remaining, giving the Lumberjacks one shot and Furman would have possession of the ball following the free throw.

Following Jossell’s free throw, which tied the game, 70-70, and Furman had one possession left to either win the game or potentially force overtime. The Paladins used nine of the 9.6 seconds available, and Bothwell got the ball, dribbled to the corner, and knocked down a well-guarded, game-winning jumper to give the Paladins the 72-70 lead. Furman’s Slawson would tip away the ensuing long pass from SFA on the final play of the game and the buzzer sounded, as Furman held on for the two-point win.

Furman staked itself to a comfortable lead with its strong play in the opening half, taking a 22-point lead to the locker room, as the Paladins held the Lumberjacks to a 1-for-20 effort from the field during one stretch, allowing the Paladins to take the sizable lead to the locker room.

The Paladins return to action for their final non-conference game of the 2022-23 season on Monday night, taking on Anderson University with tip-off set for 7 p.m. at Timmons Arena. A win by the Paladins will see them finish non-conference play with a 9-4 record, which will be a game better than they were at this point a year ago.

Post-Game Press Conference:

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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