Furman heads to UNCG for another big SoCon test

Date and Time: Jan. 29, 2023/3 p.m. EST

Venue and Location: Norvant Health Fieldhouse/Greensboro, N.C.

The Game: Furman (16-6, 7-2 SoCon) at UNC Greensboro (14-8, 8-1 SoCon)

The Series: 40th meeting/UNCG leads 21-18

Last Meeting: UNCG def. Furman 88-80 in OT/Jan. 14, 2023

The Coaches: UNCG-Mike Jones (31-23 in two seasons at UNCG)/Furman-Bob Richey (127-53/6th season)

Brief Preview: Fresh off a 91-84 overtime win over Samford last time out, Furman heads out on the SoCon road to take on another of the league’s top two teams, taking on a red-hot UNC Greensboro team that has won five-straight. The Spartans and Paladins met just 15 days ago, with the Spartans able to pick up an 88-80 overtime win over the Paladins.

Since that loss, Furman has knocked off Chattanooga (W, 77-69), Wofford (W, 96-82), and Samford (W, 91-84 OT), and when the Paladins visit Norvant Health Fieldhouse on Sunday afternoon in a standalone SoCon basketball game, the Paladins will be in search of their fourth-straight win, which would mark the Paladins’ first four-game winning streak of the season.

UNCG was able to do what few others have been able to do over the past eight seasons, which is win at Timmons Arena. In fact, no other team has had as much success playing on Furman’s home court during that span than the UNCG Spartans, who picked up their third win at Timmons Arena since the start of the 2015-16 season.

UNCG trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half, overcoming that deficit in the final 8:02 of the contest to force overtime and eventually pull off a huge Southern Conference road win in the process. Below is a brief look back at UNCG’s 88-80 overtime win in Greenville a couple of weeks ago.

With Wofford’s 85-77 win over Samford yesterday, Sunday’s game between the Paladins and Spartans will have first-place in the league at stake.

Jan. 14, 2022

UNCG 88, Furman 80 (OT)

UNCG finished with five players in double figures, as Keyshaun Langley put together a second monster game and after scoring a career-high 25 points in a win over VMI last time out, posted 24 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field, including connecting on 4-for-6 from three-point land and 6-for-9 from the charity stripe, equaling his 24. Joining Langley with double-figure scoring efforts for the Spartans were Keondre Kennedy (17 pts), Mikeal Brown-Jones (15 pts), Bas Leyte (14 pts) and Mohammad Abdulsalam (11 pts).

The Paladins were buoyed by their two big game ballers, as Mike Bothwell and Jalen Slawson combined for 44 points, while Marcus Foster posted his fifth double figure scoring effort in his past six outings, finishing with 15 points, while JP Pegues rounded out Furman’s players in double figures, as he posted 13.

Slawson and Bothwell tied for team-high scoring honors with 22 apiece. Slawson added a team-best 12 rebounds to account for his fifth double-double of the season, and it was the senior from Summerville, S.C. who came alive in the second half, sparking Furman to a 13-point lead by posting 19 of his points in the latter half and overtime. It was the Bothwell show in the first half, as he posted 16 of his 22 in the opening stanza.

Slawson finished by connecting on 6-of-11 from the field, including 2-for-3 from long range and connected on 8-of-10 shots from the line to complete his strong scoring effort before fouling out in overtime. He also dished out a pair of assists and blocked a season-high four shots. Slawson also led the Paladins with three of the team’s six offensive rebounds in the loss.

Bothwell added his 22 points on 8-of-19 shooting from the field, including going 1-for-5 from three-point land. He was a perfect 5-for-5 from the foul line. The senior from Cleveland Heights, OH, added six rebounds, three assists and a steal to round out another strong effort. Pegues added three assists to tie Bothwell for team-high honors, while Garrett Hien recorded three of the team’s five steals.

UNCG finished the contest connecting on 45.3% (24-of-53) from the field to go with a 50% (7-of-14) from three-point land. The Spartans were an impressive 80.5% (33-of-41) from the charity stripe in the contest.

Furman finished the contest shooting a near identical percentage, connecting on 45.0% (27-of-60) from the field, while shooting 34.6% (9-of-26) from three-point land. The Paladins were also impressive from the free throw line, making good on 85.0% (17-of-20) of their shots from the charity stripe.

UNCG held advantages in points from turnovers (17-16), bench points (15-5), total rebounds (36-33), total assists (15-9), and fast break points (9-0). Furman finished with advantages in points in the paint (34-30), and second chance points (9-8).

Furman has had some success playing inside the Greensboro Coliseum, however, winning two of its last three contests inside one of college basketball’s most notable venues. Here’s a look back at last year’s 58-54 Paladin win.

Jan. 5, 2021

Furman 58, UNC Greensboro 54

In what was a defensive battle, which featured five ties and six ties, but the Paladins continued to make big shots down the stretch when it looked as if the Spartans might be ready to take control of the basketball game.

A De’Monte Buckingham triple with just under eight minutes remaining brought the Spartans to within a point, at 46-45, however,  a three-pointer by Mike Bothwell put the Paladins back ahead by four, 49-45, with 7:29 remaining. 

After a Buckingham one-handed tomahawk slam off a breakaway made it a 49-47 game with 5:24 left, however, Jalen Slawson raced to the other end, beating Buckingham back down the floor to find himself for an open look at a three-pointer from the left elbow, which he knocked down for his only three of the night, extending Furman’s lead back to five, at 52-47, with 5:04 remaining. 

A jumper by Abdulsalam got the Spartans back to within three with 4:01 left, and neither team scored from the field over the next 2:23 of game clock,  a layup by Mike Bothwell with 1:38 remaining eventually took Furman’s advantage at five, at 54-49, with 1:38 remaining. 

A Dante Treacy three-pointer with 61 seconds remaining made things tense for Bob Richey and the Paladins once again, cutting the Furman lead to just two, at 54-52.

On Furman’s next possession, a top-of-the-key fade-a-way jumper with the shot clock winding down extended Furman’s lead back to four, at 56-52, with 31 seconds remaining. Buckingham’s jumper on the other end made it a two-point Spartans deficit once again, with 19 seconds left.

However, the Spartans still had two fouls to give, and inexplicably waited seven seconds to give the first of those, getting to six team fouls. A second later, Bothwell was fouled to get the Paladins into the 1-and-1, and he went to the line with 11 seconds remaining. He calmly knocked down both foul shots, as Furman made it a 58-54 game. 

A final three pointer was off the mark with four seconds remaining, and Furman ran out the final seconds to claim its first SoCon road win of the season. 

In the opening half, Furman scored the first seven points of the contest, and would maintain a six-point edge when Alex Hunter knocked down a three-pointer to give the Paladins a 21-15 lead with 9:02 remaining in the opening half of play. 

With UNCG trailing 24-19 with 7:43 remaining in the half, a 9-3 run by the Spartans, which started with a pair of Kobe Langley foul shots, and ended with a Treacy jumper in the lane, giving UNCG a 28-27 lead with 1:42 remaining. Marcus Foster’s three with 1:12 left in the opening half, giving the Paladins a 30-28 lead. Furman would maintain that two-point lead heading into the locker room.

Previewing The Spartans:

Obviously anytime a team faces UNC Greensboro, they know they are in for a defensive war. The Spartans take that end of the floor as seriously as any team in college basketball.

The statistics certainly bear that out as well, with the Spartans entering Sunday afternoon’s game against the Paladins leading the SoCon in field goal percentage defense (39.6%), scoring defense (63.3 PPG), steals-per-game (7.4 SPG), three-point field goal percentage defense (30.0%) and turnover margin (2.3).

All told, the Spartans rank 32nd in scoring defense (63.6 PPG), 36th in three-point field goal percentage defense (30.0%) and 54th in turnover margin (2.3). Leading the defensive charge individually includes Kobe Langley, who enters the contest ranking 25th nationally in steals (44), 34th in assist-turnover ratio (2.59), and 49th in steals-per-game (2.00).

On the offensive end of the floor, the Spartans are led individually by Keyshaun Langley (13.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG) and Keondre Kennedy (12.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG), who are two of three Spartans averaging in double figures entering Sunday afternoon’s clash. The third player averaging in double figures entering the contest against the Paladins is Mikeal Brown-Jones (11.1 PPG).

Forward Bas Leyte (7.9 PPG, 4.8 RPG) always seems to come up big in late-game situations for the Spartans when facing the Paladins. The Dutchman came up with a pair of key offensive rebounds to help the Spartans hold off the Paladins with an 88-80 overtime win in Greenville a couple of weeks back, and last season in UNCG’s 58-56 win at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, he had a steal late off a rebound by Furman’s Marcus Foster and had to be fouled, ultimately preventing the Paladins from getting a big Southern Conference home win in early February last season.

Both veteran guard Dante Treacy (7.7 PPG, 2.3 RPG) and forward Mohammed Abdulsalam.(6.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG) also put up solid numbers for the UNCG Spartans.

UNCG Tradition:

UNCG joined the Southern Conference as a basketball member in the 1997-98 season, and have enjoyed a solid tradition during its membership on the men’s basketball hardwood.

Since the start 2015-16 season, no Southern Conference program has enjoyed more success, with the Spartans having won 171 basketball games over that span, which includes having won 97 Southern Conference games. The Spartans have claimed a pair of Southern Conference Tournament crowns in 2018 and 2021, respectively.

Players like Demetrius Cherry, Kyle Hines, Nathan Jamison, David Schuck and Isaiah Miller are among some of the greats to have donned the Navy and Gold during UNCG’s Southern Conference membership, while coaches such as current Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery and current Cincinnati head coach Wes Miller represent some of the coaching legends that have been part of a strong coaching lineage.

Furman’s Tradition

Like UNCG, Furman has had its own share of success over the past eight years on the SoCon basketball hardwood, however, it has yet to yield the ultimate success, which would be a return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1980.

With that said, the program closest to UNCG in terms of total wins (169) and SoCon wins (95) since the start of the 2015-16 season is Furman.

The Paladins are one of two of the SoCon’s charter members that are among the current membership. Along with The Citadel, the Paladins joined the SoCon as an original member in 1921.

The Paladins have won five regular-season SoCon crowns and have been to the NCAA Tournament six times. Furman has the lone 100-point scorer in a basketball game in college basketball history, in Frank Selvy, and he was inducted into the national basketball Hall-of-Fame this past November.

Though the Paladins have not made the NCAA Tournament since 1980, much of that proud tradition has been accentuated over the past eight years. Wins over Villanova, Louisville and Loyola Chicago (2) are just three of those aforementioned 169 recorded over that span.

Furman’s Jordan Lyons also tied the NCAA single-game record for three-pointers made (15) in a game when he did so against North Greenville during the 2018-19. Furman also achieved its first-ever national ranking in school history during that same season, rising has high as No. 23 in the ESPN/USA Today poll.

Along with Lyons and Selvy, Furman’s rich tradition of standout players includes guys like Karim Souchu, Devin Sibley, Stephen Croone, Matt Rafferty, Chuck Vincent, and Alex Hunter to name just a few.

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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