For the second-straight home game, Furman needed an extra session to decide a Southern Conference thriller against one of the top two teams in the friendly confines of Timmons Arena, as the Paladins picked up what was a 91-84 victory over win over previously league unbeaten Samford on Wednesday night before a rowdy crowd of 1,857.
The win sees Furman improve to 16-6 overall and 7-2 in Southern Conference action, while Samford, which saw its eight-game winning streak snapped, fell to 14-8 overall and 8-1 in league action. With UNC Greensboro’s 62-50 win over VMI Wednesday night, the standings atop the Southern Conference are now tied, with the Spartans improving to 14-8 overall and 8-1 in the SoCon following a 62-50 win over the Keydets at the Greensboro Coliseum Wednesday night. Furman will be in the Gate City to take on the UNCG Spartans Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. EST. That game will also be televised by NEXSTAR as a part of the Southern Conference Game of the Week.
The win saw the Paladins improve to 93-16 at Timmons Arena since the start of the 2015-16 campaign, as well as improving to 52-8 against Southern Conference foes inside the friendly confines. The win also marked Furman’s 169th overall win in the past eight seasons, which is second to only UNC Greensboro’s 171 victories over that same span.
Like the UNCG game, which the Paladins wound up losing 88-80 in the extra session, the game wasn’t easy by any stretch for the team that entered the season as the consensus favorite to win the Southern Conference, and it looked the Paladins were going to drop consecutive games to the SoCon’s top two teams according to the standings in back-to-back fashion on their home floor, however, when Jalen Slawson’s step-back three went down with 30.1 seconds remaining tied the game, 76-76, eventually forcing the extra session.
It was all part of a huge night for Slawson, as he posted a game-high 26 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to notch his sixth double-double of the 2022-23 season. Additionally, Slawson recorded three steals, dished out a pair of assists and blocked a shot. Slawson finished the night connecting on 6-of-12 shots from the field, including 1-of-4 from three-point range and was an impressive 13-of-15 from the charity stripe. Slawson was one of five Paladins in double-figures for a second-straight game, and his 26 points marked a season-high, eclipsing the 25-point effort he put together in a home win over Winthrop.
The 26-point scoring effort by Slawson marked the third time in the past four games that he has scored 20 or more points in a game. Joining the super senior in double figures in the win were Mike Bothwell (17 pts), JP Pegues (15 pts), Alex Williams (13 pts), and Marcus Foster (11 pts).
Samford finished the contest also placing five players in double figures, with Logan Dye leading the Bulldogs with 19 points. Dye finished the night knocking down 7-of-10 shots from the field, which included a 2-for-5 shooting effort from three-point land. He also connected on 3-of-4 shots from the charity stripe. The senior also finished with six rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks to round out another outstanding performance. Joining Dye in double figures for the Bulldogs were AJ Staton-McCray (16 pts), Glover (15 pts) and Bubba Parham and Jaden Campbell, who added 10 points apiece in the setback.
It wasn’t a particularly great shooting night for the Paladins. Furman finished the game knocking down 40.0% (28-of-70) from the field, including just 23.5% from three-point range (8-of-34), however, the Paladins did manage to connect on 79.4% (27-of-34) from the free throw line to close out the night.
The Bulldogs finished the contest shooting an impressive 55.2% (32-of-58), including 35.0% (7-of-20) from three-point range. The Bulldogs connected on 68.4% (13-of-19) from the charity stripe.
Furman finished the contest holding advantages in total assists (18-11), total rebounds (40-35), second-chance points (23-8), fast-break scoring (17-1) and points from turnovers (10-6). Samford held advantages in points in the paint (46-36) and bench scoring (26-9). One of the big keys to Furman’s mid-week win over the previously league unbeaten Bulldogs was Furman’s outstanding job on the offensive glass, as Furman’s 17 offensive rebounds directly led to those 23 second-chance points.
How It Happened:
Wednesday night’s game was a memorable one for Southern Conference basketball fans, and especially, Furman basketball fans, and it may well be a game that Furman fans look back on as a turning point should the Paladins go on and achieve their ultimate goal of winning the Southern Conference Tournament in Asheville in March. While that is still over a month away, Wednesday night’s win by the Paladins could muddy up the water at the top of the league standings, and what it did do was forge a tie for first place in the league standings between Samford and UNC Greensboro.
Furman had multiple different players show up in big moments for the Paladins in a gritty Southern Conference win over the Bulldogs. And the Paladins had to win it once again shorthanded, without the services of Garrett Hien, who suffered a concussion in the win over Wofford, and with Ben VanderWal limited due to illness.
The Paladins were just 5-of-31 from three-point range the entire night before knocking down three-straight to close the game and close out the win. The first came from Slawson, whose step-back triple with 18 seconds remaining ultimately forced overtime, tying the contest, 76-76.
In overtime, Marcus Foster connected on another three-pointer with 30.1 seconds remaining to give the Paladins an 87-84, ultimately proving to be the game-winning shot for the Paladins. The other monster triple for the Paladins came in regulation with Samford holding a 73-70 lead, and Furman point guard JP Pegues found an open Alex Williams in the left corner for an open three, and he knocked down the shot to tie the game, 73-73, with just 1:03 remaining. However, the Bulldogs responded with a huge shot of their own, as AJ Staton-McCray canned a three from the right corner to give Samford a 76-73 lead with 38 seconds remaining. That would set the stage for Slawson’s game-tying triple some 20 seconds later, tying the contest, 76-76. That would remain the score as the two teams headed for the extra five minutes of basketball.
In the extra session, Furman would retake the lead when Jalen Slawson knocked down a pair of foul shots following a foul on Logan Dye, giving the Paladins a 78-76 lead. However, Bubba Parham would match the Slawson foul shots on the other end after knocking down a pair of free throws after he was fouled by Furman’s Marcus Foster.
With the game tied 78-78, Parham committed his fifth personal foul and was, as a result, disqualified. That sent J.P. Pegues to the line for a pair of free throws, and he knocked down both offerings to put the Paladins back ahead by two points, at 80-78. After Pegues fouled Samford’s Ques Glover on the other end, he went to the line and went 1-for-2 from the stripe, leaving the Paladins clinging to a one-point, 80-79, lead.
Mike Bothwell missed a three-pointer on the other end, but Foster grabbed a key offensive rebound, and the ball eventually found its way into the hands of Bothwell once again and he was fouled. Bothwell knocked down both free throws to put the Paladins ahead by three, 82-79, with just under three minutes remaining.
Samford would answer with a Glover layup in traffic to get back to within a point of the Paladins. Foster missed a three on the other end, however, Slawson was there for another key offensive carom for the Paladins. Furman couldn’t make good on the series, however, as Pegues three-point attempt was also awry and Staton-McCray cleared the rebound for Samford. A Glover layup in the paint gave the Bulldogs an 83-82 lead with 1:44 remaining.
The lead wouldn’t last long, however, as Alex Williams answered with a layup off a missed three pointer by Foster, and Furman regained the lead, 84-83, with 59 seconds remaining. Foster then fouled Jaden Campbell, as he picked up his fourth personal foul. Campbell followed by making the first free throw, but missed the second to lead the contest tied, 84-84. Foster grabbed the board, and Furman quickly advanced the ball into the forecourt where Foster then connected on a triple from the right corner, giving the Paladins an 87-84 lead with 30 seconds left—it would be a lead Furman would not relinquish the rest of the way.
On the ensuing Samford possession, Bothwell made arguably the defensive play of the night on Glover, as he drove to the basket looking for the layup to bring the Bulldogs to within a point. However, Bothwell appeared to get the slightest piece of the ball to alter Glover’s shot, and the ball was rebounded by Alex Williams, who was immediately fouled. He knocked down both foul shots to increase Furman’s lead to 89-84 with 17 seconds remaining. After Logan Dye missed a three-pointer on the other end with 10 seconds left, Slawson grabbed the rebound and was immediately fouled. He knocked down both foul shots to provide the final margin of victory on the other end for the Paladins and complete what was by all accounts one of the more memorable wins in recent memory at Timmons Arena. The win was somewhat reminiscent of last year’s non-conference, 91-88, overtime win over the College of Charleston.
In the opening half of play, Furman was able to maintain the lead throughout the opening frame, taking as much as a 12-point lead, at 25-13, following a three-pointer by Carter Whitt with 9:13 to play in the opening half. The Bulldogs would out-score the Paladins 21-13 the remainder of the half, cutting Furman’s lead to four with Glover’s buzzer-beating jumper to end the half.
The Bulldogs would carry that spark out of the locker room in the opening minutes of the second half, scoring the first 11 points of the second half, and included with the final four points Samford scored to close the opening half of play, the Bulldogs had a 15-0 run spanning two halves, eventually taking as much as a seven-point lead, at 45-38, following a Logan Dye layup in the paint.
Furman returns to action Sunday afternoon, taking on another of the SoCon’s top teams, as the Paladins will battle UNC Greensboro at the Greensboro Coliseum. Tip-off for that contest is set for 3 p.m. EST. Samford returns to action Saturday afternoon, with a 2 p.m. EST battle at Wofford.
Postgame Press Conference: