I-85 Rivalry: Furman and Wofford set for Saturday night showdown

The Date: Feb. 4, 2023

The Venue and Location: Bon Secours Wellness Arena (15,971)/downtown Greenville, S.C.

The Game: Wofford (13-11, 5-6 SoCon) at Furman (18-6, 9-2 SoCon)

The Coaches: Wofford-Dwight Perry (8-7 since being named interim head coach following Jay McAuley’s leave of absence and eventual resignation)/Furman-Bob Richey (129-52)

The Series: 153rd meeting/Furman leads 90-62

Furman’s all-time record at Bon Secours Wellness Arena: 8-9/have won four of last five in the facility, including a 72-70 decision on Dec. 17 vs. Stephen F. Austin. Four of Furman’s last five games in its home away from home have been decided by no more than two points.

Last Time They Met: Furman 96, Wofford 82 (Jan. 22, 2023, at Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium in Spartanburg, S.C.)


Previewing the Rivalry Matchup:

Furman and Wofford will renew their longstanding rivalry for the 153rd time on Saturday evening at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, and if recent history is any indicator, Sunday’s clash should be another thriller inside the facility that has affectionately become known as “The Well.” In fact, Furman has won each of the past two meetings inside the downtown arena by a single point, having to survive potential game-winning three-pointers from Nathan Hoover and B.J. Mack, respectively, to hold on for wins in each of those two contests.

In the meeting between the two just a 13 days ago, the Paladins were buoyed by a career afternoon from sophomore point guard J.P. Pegues, as he posted a career-high 26 points, helping the Paladins to their highest scoring output in a road game this season en route to the 96-82 win.

The Terriers come to Greenville with Furman starting to play some of its best basketball of the season, and that 14-point win two weeks ago was the second of what has now become Furman’s longest winning streak of the season, as the Paladins enter Sunday’s clash winners of their last five and trending in the right direction as the final month of the regular-season in college basketball is only just underway.

Prior to Wednesday night’s 77-52 loss at East Tennessee State to open the final month of the regular-season for Wofford’s men’s basketball team, the Terriers had been playing some pretty good basketball themselves, posting wins over SoCon tri-leader Samford (W, 85-77) and on the road at Chattanooga (W, 85-80) before dropping the midweek clash with the Bucs on the road. The loss to ETSU means the Terriers surrendered both of the regular-season contests to ETSU, which also claimed a 73-71 win on Wofford’s home floor back on Dec. 29.

It is interesting that Wofford, which is coached by former Paladin assistant coach Dwight Perry, who officially took over as Wofford’s interim head coach following head coach Jay McAuley’s resignation a day after that ETSU defeat, followed arguably its best all-around performance of the season in the win over Samford by posting one of its worst in the road loss to the Bucs some three days later.

In fact, Wofford’s 52 points in its midweek road loss to ETSU were a season-low, eclipsing the previous season-low of 53 points established in what was a buzzer-beating road win at Mercer in early January. The Terriers struggled offensively, connecting on just 42.6% (23-of-54) from the field and a season-low 14.3% (3-of-21) from three-point land in the midweek road loss in Johnson City. In fact, Wofford will hope the season series with ETSU is over, as it would probably do well to avoid the Bucs in Asheville, considering Wofford struggled to shoot the ball from any sort of range in the season series vs. ETSU, finishing a combined 40.5% (47-of-116) from the field, while connecting on a frigid 15.3% (8-of-52) from beyond the arc in a pair of games against the Bucs.

While the loss to the Bucs was disappointing for the Terriers, however, there have some been some memorable moments in what has been a bit of a peculiar season for Terrier basketball. Wofford owns the league’s top non-conference win in 2022-23, having knocked off Texas A&M, 67-62, just prior to Christmas.

Offensively, Wofford has shown flashes of brilliance at times this season, however, it’s been on the defensive end where the Terriers have seen the most stark drop-off. Wofford enters Saturday evening’s SoCon rivalry clash with the Paladins ranking fifth in the SoCon in scoring offense (74.1 PPG), while ranking second to only Furman in team field goal percentage (46.9%), while ranking seventh overall on the SoCon’s ledger in three-point field goal percentage (33.3%).

The two unquestioned leaders of the Terrier basketball team are a pair of players that see the Terriers have both one of the top young guards, as well as one of the SoCon’s top big men, in guard Jackson Paveletzke (14.5 PPG, 2.7 RPG) and forward BJ Mack (15.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG). The Paladins know just how good the Terriers freshman guard can be, as he posted 25 points in the first meeting between these two teams two weeks ago. Mack’s solid supporting effort saw him finish off the contest with 21 points in the 96-82 loss to the Paladins.

Supplementing the efforts of Wofford’s top two players among the Terrier starting five this season have been the trio of point guard Corey Tripp (8.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG), Murray State transfer wing Jackson Sivills (4.7 PPG, 2.8 RPG), and veteran forward Messiah Jones (9.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG). Jones, like Mack, was a 2022-23 preseason All-SoCon selection, however, he has struggled to find the same all-conference form he had prior to several debilitating injuries, including a torn Achilles tendon last season. Tripp has been among the most-improved players in the Southern Conference this season.

Wofford doesn’t go particularly deep off the bench, however, Virginia transfer Carson McCorkle (6.3 PPG, 1.4 RPG) is a three-point specialist, while Southern Illinois transfer forward Kyler Filewich (6.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG) has added a veteran savvy and toughness to the Terrier overall team dynamic this season. Amari Tice (3.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG) gives the Terriers good athleticism off the bench, while Adam Silas (3.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG), who has struggled to find his touch from long-range this season (20.6% from 3-pt range this season/7-of-34). Silas has started three games and has seen action in all 23 contests for the Terriers in 2022-23.


Furman has been trending in the right direction since a trip to Chattanooga back on Jan. 18, as that game commenced what is now a five-game winning streak for Bob Richey’s Paladin team.

It’s probably apropos then, that Slawson, who is one of the league’s top dunkers and also among the most athletic big men, should start off the Chinese calendar Year known as “Year of the Rabbit” in strong fashion.

Friday’s announcement by the league office that the 6-7 senior forward Slawson was named the Southern Conference Player of the Month for the month of January probably came to little surprise for those who have been following the ‘Dins, however.

During the first month of the 2023 calendar year, Slawson is averaging 17.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.3 SPG, and 1.4 blocks per game in eight games last month, helping the Paladins post a 7-1 mark to open the New Year.

Simply put, Jalen Slawson has been on a tear. He has 10-straight double-figure scoring performances, including all eight to open 2023. He also posted two of his seven total double-doubles in the first month of 2023. He is currently shooting 55.1% from the field, 40% from three-point range, and 80.3% from the charity stripe during that eight-game span.

Putting that start to the new year in perspective, it marks Furman’s best start to a inaugural month to a calendar year since Furman opened the 1991 calendar year 9-1 under the direction of former head coach Butch Estes.

Slawson, who posted his seventh double-double of the season, with 15 points and 11 boards to go with six assists, four steals and a pair of blocks in Furman’s 79-58 win over Chattanooga this past to open the month of February, as he picked up right where he left off last month.

His signature performance of the month came near the end of the month, as he posted a season-high 26 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in Furman’s 91-84 overtime win over then-league-leading Samford. His step-back three with 18 seconds remaining helped tie the game, 76-76, ultimately sending it to the extra session where the Paladins were able to come up with a monumental home league win, snapping Samford’s eight-game winning streak.

Pegues’ perseverance:

While Slawson has been magnificent, the story of Furman’s season and its current run of success has everything to do with its point guard, JP Pegues (10.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.9 APG), who entered the 2022-23 season having never played point guard for Furman, was ultimately assigned a task as difficult as any individual Paladin entering the season, as he was asked to replace arguably the best point to ever suit up for Furman, in Alex Hunter, who left as Furman’s all-time career-leader in wins and took as good of care of the basketball as any Paladin primary ball-handler in school history.

Hunter started 122 out of 156 games in his great Paladin career, spending a majority of his five seasons in a Paladin uniform as the starting point guard. He finished being a part of

Pegues didn’t necessarily struggle to start the season, however, he simply took on a task that took him some time to fully understand. But over the past five games, he’s simply been Furman’s best player and its most important one.

Wofford doesn’t need any more convincing. They saw enough in the sophomore guard’s career-high 26-point, eight rebound effort in Furman’s 96-82 win over the Terriers back on Jan. 22. Last time out against Chattanooga, Pegues finished with 12 points, three rebounds, and three assists.

Bothwell and the ‘Well’

Mike Bothwell (19.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.4 APG has seen some his most dramatic shots during his outstanding Furman career fall through the hoop in late-game situations, including one this season. In the Greenville Invitational, the Paladins faced Stephen F. Austin for the first time in program history, coming away with a 72-70 win in a thriller.

It was Bothwell’s career-high 36 points, with 21 of those coming in the second half, and none were bigger than his final two, which staked the Paladins to a narrow two-point lead with just under a second left, helping Furman avoid a near deflating defeat, which saw the Lumberjacks overcome a 22-point halftime deficit.

Bothwell’s performance became the first NCAA Division I player in a decade to score at least 35 points and shoot 85% or better from the field, while also remaining perfect from the charity stripe.

Late-game moments in the I-85 rivalry

The recent history of the rivalry between Furman and Wofford has seen some great finishes that have gone right down to the wire. Stephen Croone’s tip-in at the buzzer on Jan. 23, 2016, for a 63-62 win was one of the more memorable ones for the Paladin fans. As for Wofford, it’s had some, too, with the most notable being a Storm Murphy winner in the 2018-19, delivering what was a 15-foot jumper with 18 seconds remaining, helping the Terriers unlock a tied basketball game and go on to a 59-54 win.

Each of the past two meetings between the Paladins and Terriers at The ‘Well–both Paladin one-point victories–saw the Paladins have to survive misses from Nathan Hoover and B.J.Mack to hold on for each of those one-point decisions.

In many ways, Furman can much of its transformation as a basketball program to its rivalry with Wofford, dating back to 2015. In the final regular-season game of the 2014-15 season, the Paladins were already locked into the No. 10 seed in Asheville, the Paladins were without point guard Stephen Croone, and John Davis III, who drew the important start, responded accordingly by pouring in 20, however, the regular-season champion Terriers held off the Paladins, 62-60, at Timmons Arena. The two would meet a week later in a No. 1 vs. No. 10 matchup at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center, with Wofford holding off a valiant effort by the Paladins for a 67-64 win.

Wofford’s historic 30-win season in 2018-19 saw the Terriers go a perfect 21-0 against SoCon competition en route to a Top 25 ranking and an NCAA Tournament No. 7 seed. The Terriers ended up knocking off Seton Hall, 84-68, in its tourney opener before falling to Kentucky, 62-56, in the round of 32.

Wofford and Furman were a part of modern day Southern Conference hoops history during that memorable campaign, with both holding the distinction of having been ranked in both major Top 25 polls during the same season. The Paladins were ranked for two weeks following a school record 12-0 start to that campaign, with wins over Villanova and Loyola Chicago as a part of that perfect start.

More articles on the rivalry and connections can be found in these two articles below





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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