Furman ends UNCG’s five-game winning streak; forges tie atop the SoCon standings

With its 69-57 win at UNC Greensboro Sunday afternoon, Furman forged a three-way tie atop the Southern Conference standings with the aforementioned Spartans and Samford following the Paladins fourth-straight victory and fifth-consecutive road win. 

Furman’s win saw it improve to 17-6 overall and 8-2 in league play, while UNCG dropped to 14-9 overall and 8-2 in league action, as the Paladins snapped what had been a five-game winning streak for UNCG. Furman’s four-game winning streak marks the first time all season the Paladins have won four-straight games. 

The win saw the Paladins improve to 2-2 when scoring less than 70 points in a game this season. The Paladins now have wins over both Appalachian State (W, 65-61) and UNC Greensboro (W, 69-57), while having lost games to Western Carolina (L, 67-79) and Penn State (L, 68-73).

The Paladins dictated the rules of engagement from the outset of the game, using a 12-2 run to start the game, and a 10-2 run to open the second half, maintaining control of the game and lead for all but 22 seconds of game action, as Furman picked up its third win in its last four trips to the Greensboro Coliseum. 

For the second-straight Sunday, Furman was paced statistically by point guard J.P. Pegues. A week after scoring a career-high 26 points in a 96-82 road win over Wofford, the sophomore point guard led the Paladins with 17 points on 4-of-10 shooting from the field and finished 2-of-3 from three-point land. Pegues also connected on 7-of-11 foul shots in the contest. In addition to his scoring total, Pegues also pulled down three rebounds, dished out four assists in a shade under 32 minutes of playing time. 

Pegues was one of four Paladins in double figures, with Jalen Slawson (15 pts), Mike Bothwell (10 pts) and Marcus Foster (10 pts) also posting double-figure scoring efforts for the Paladins. Furman’s Garrett Hien, who missed a majority of the last two games due to concussion protocol, returned to the Paladin starting lineup against UNCG and he put in a strong effort in his return to the Paladin lineup, as he posted nine points, four rebounds and a steal in 27 minutes of court time. 

UNCG had only one in double figures, as senior Mohammed Abdulsalam ended up having a career day for the Spartans, as he posted a career-high 23 points, eight rebounds, one assist, and one block. Abdulsalam finished the afternoon connecting on 9-of-10 shots from the field and was 5-for-7 from the charity stripe. 

For the game, Furman was able to connect on 48.9% (23-of-47) of its shots from the field, while knocking down 47.1% (8-of-17) from three-point range. Meanwhile, the Paladin defense was superb for a majority of the afternoon, limiting the Spartans to just 43.4% (23-of-53) shooting from the field and just 16.7% (2-of-12) shooting from long-range. 

The two three-pointers by the Spartans were a season-low, eclipsing the four made triples in a recent win over Mercer. The 57 points were the third-lowest scoring total of the season for UNCG, which was topped only by a 56-point outing against North Carolina A&T, and 53 points scored on a pair of occasions in losses to Towson and Hofstra out of the CAA. The Spartans fell to 1-6 on the season when scoring less than 60 points in a game. 

For the game, Furman finished holding advantages in points off turnovers (14-13), second chance points (5-3), fast-break points (7-0), total rebounds (31-23), and total assists (13-10) while UNCG owned advantages in points in the paint (42-28), and bench points (10-8). 

How It Happened:

They say the sign of a good basketball team is possessing the ability to win games in a multitude of ways. Last Sunday, the Paladins used an offensive onslaught to put up 96 points and come away with a 14-point win over Wofford, however, as games usually trend when playing the Spartans, the Paladins and head coach Bob Richey knew the defensive end of the court would be paramount in order to come away with a key road win. 

“You have to be able to win games all kinds of ways and every team is going to present different challenges and all games are going to have different tempos and it’s the fun of it right…and that’s what makes coaching fun and its figuring out the puzzle…figuring out how to solve it…tonight we knew it was going to be a smash mouth game and we knew that the physicality…we were going to have to at least be able to match it and that’s been kind of their deal to us…Just to smash it in the box and to know you know let’s go in there and try and bully them and I thought our guys did a really good job of keeping their poise and um…we made the box harder to access tonight,” head coach Bob Richey said.

In direct contrast to how the proceedings unfolded in Spartanburg, which saw the Paladins start each half by seeing Wofford post 8-0 and 9-0 runs, respectively, it would be the Paladins that would be the ones that would dictate the rules of engagement in each of the two halves in the win at UNC Greensboro. Furman would start each half with runs of 10-2 and 9-2, respectively, to assume and maintain control of the basketball game in each frame..

In the opening half, the Paladins and Spartans  traded buckets by JP Pegues and Mohammed Abdulsalam before the Paladins would eventually reel off 10-straight, starting with a Marcus Foster triple and ending with a Jalen Slawson two-handed stuff in transition, staking the Paladins to the 12-2 lead and prompting UNCG’s Mike Jones to take a timeout.

UNCG would eventually reel the Paladins back in over the next few minutes, and with Furman leading 19-10 following a Mike Bothwell triple with exactly 13 minutes remaining in the half, it would lead to the Spartans putting together a 9-0 run of their own, tying the basketball game, 19-19, following a Dante Treacy layup in the paint with 8:46 remaining in the opening frame.

The Paladins would gradually get their lead back to eight, and following a Mikeal Brown-Jones dunk off a beautiful alley-oop from Treacy, which cut Furman’s lead to 26-23 and prompted a Bob Richey 30-second timeout.

Following the brief stoppage, the Paladins would score five quick points on an Alex Williams left elbow three-pointer and a Jalen Slawson running layup in the lane, allowing the Paladins to assume a 31-23 lead with just under five minutes remaining in the half.

UNCG then scored nine-straight to take their only lead of the afternoon, with Keyshaun Langley starting the run with a layup in the paint, while a Keondre Kennedy would get he Spartans within a point at 31-30 following UNCG’s first of two three-pointers of the night. A Treacy layup following a Furman turnover would give the Spartans a brief, 32-31,  lead with just over two minutes remaining. The Spartan lead would last for all of  22 seconds.

A Ben VanderWal foul shot tied the game, 32-32, and following a short missed jumper in the lane by Treacy from straight-a-way, Tyrese Hughey grabbed an offensive rebound—one of seven totaled by the Paladins in the win—and he managed to convert the layup to give the Paladins the 34-42 lead with just over a minute to play in the half.

After Treacy hit 1-of-2 foul shots following a bonus two-shot foul, the Paladins still held the lead by the slimmest of margins—34-33—with 45 seconds left in the opening frame. Bothwell, who scored a quiet 17, provided a couple of huge momentum shots for the Paladins in the game—one to give the Paladins seemingly all the mojo heading into the half after his layup and free throw to finish off a three-point play the old-fashioned way, allowing the Paladins to take a 37-33 lead into the intermission—the other shot would prove to be a momentum killer for UNCG in the second half when the Spartans were threatening to get back into the game before Bothwell answered with a monumental step-back jumper that deflated UNCG’s comeback hopes and put the Furman margin back to double-digits with just under three to play. 

Abdulsalam, who scored UNCG’s first points of the game, would follow suit in the second half and get the Spartans on the board to open the second stanza on a half-hook in the paint, cutting the Furman lead to 37-35. From there, however, the Paladins would score 12 of the game’s next 14 points to assume what was a 49-37 lead following a JP Pegues trey in transition, and just like he was forced to do in the opening half, UNCG head coach Mike Jones was forced to call a timeout with 15:34 remaining to try and stem the Paladin tide to open the second half.

Over the next nine minutes, the Paladin lead would hover from 7-12 points. However, a Keyshaun Langley made jumper in the lane and an Abdulsalam layup in the paint following a Pegues miss on the other end, got the Spartans to within six, at 56-50, with 6:32 remaining, and the crowd started to come alive inside the Greensboro Coliseum, as UNCG looked to inch even closer. However, on perhaps the most crucial offensive possessions of the afternoon, it would Furman’s veteran all-league duo that would drive the final nail in UNCG’s proverbial coffin. First, Slawson went into the paint and was fouled by Abdulsalam, converting the shot in the process. He connected on the foul shot to complete the three-point play the old-fashioned way, giving the Paladins a 59-50 lead with 5:24 remaining. 

Neither team could find the mark over the next couple of minutes until Bothwell got the ball at the top of the key and stepped back to create some separation before his high-arching jumper hit nothing but net and gave the Paladins a 61-50 lead with 2:58 remaining. Bas Leyte would eventually end a near six-minute scoring drought with his layup with 58 seconds remaining, getting the Spartans to within 12, at 66-54, and after Furman matched its largest lead of the day following a Pegues three-point play the old-fashioned way, making it a 69-54 game with just 26 seconds remaining, Kobe Langley would cap the scoring by connecting on UNCG’s second three-pointer of the game, setting the final score, at 69-57, with 20 seconds left.

One of the most noticeable trends that came away from Sunday afternoon’s win for the Paladins was ultimately their dedication defensively against UNCG’s guards, blanketing one of the top guards in the Southern Conference, in Keyshaun Langley for much of the afternoon. Langley went off against the Paladins in the 88-80 overtime win in Greenville, posting a game-high 24 points, however, on Sunday, the Paladins limited the lightning-quick guard to just four points on just 2-of-7 shooting from the field and 0-for-4 from three.

Collectively, Richey and,  in particular associate head coach Jeremy Growe, defensive game plan to take away UNCG’s talented backcourt by guarding the perimeter hard, meant that by nature, at least one of UNCG’s bigs was going to have a big day, and while Abdulsalam had a big day showing his quality around the basket, it was a sacrifice the Paladins were willing to make against UNCG’s athletic, fast backcourt. The UNCG guards were 13-of-25 from the field collectively, scoring a combined 48 of the team’s 88 points in UNCG’s 88-80 overtime win a couple of weeks ago. In Sunday’s Furman victory, the Paladins collectively showcased the kind of defense it takes to win in March in Asheville, holding the UNCG backcourt to a combined 10-of-36 from the field and just 24 combined points. 

“We did a really, really good job on their guards and we started the game…they started different (no Keyshaun Langley in the starting lineup for UNCG) and they brought the other Langley off the bench and so then we put [JP] Pegues on the point guard and we had a really good start and then when Langley came in…zero…We put JP [Pegues] on him and then their point guard started getting in the paint all the time and so that was one of the big adjustments at halftime was to put JP back on the point guard to try and dissolve some of that middle ball screen stuff that they were killing us on and I thought that was a big adjustment,” head coach Bob Richey said.

Furman returns to action Wednesday night, as the Paladins host Chattanooga at Timmons Arena in a 7 p.m. contest. UNCG will be on the road for a 7 p.m. contest with upstart Mercer.

Postgame Audio:

Furman head coach Bob Richey
Furman point guard JP Pegues

Instagram highlights:

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: