Furman matches last season’s win total with Senior Night win over East Tennessee State
Furman rebounded from its surprising road loss to The Citadel in the middle of the week, taking a hard-fought, 83-79, Senior Night win over East Tennessee State in a nationally televised Southern Conference game Sunday evening at Timmons Arena.
With the win, Furman garnered its first regular-season sweep of the Bucs since the 1986-87 season and became one of only four teams in NCAA Division I basketball with 22 wins, as the Paladins improved to 22-7 overall and 13-3 in Southern Conference play, while ETSU dropped to 10-19 overall and 6-10 in league play. At 13-3 the Paladins remain just a game back of league-leading Samford (14-2) with two games remaining in the regular season, which includes games Wednesday night in the regular-season home finale against Mercer (Feb. 22) before traveling to face Samford (Feb. 25) in the final game of the regular season. With wins in its final two games, the Paladins would garner the top overall seed for the Southern Conference Tournament coming up in early March in Asheville.
In what was a night to celebrate the accomplishments of three seniors, including two of Furman’s greatest players in program history, it ended up being another well-rounded scoring effort for the ‘Dins, who had five different players post double-figure scoring performances. Both Jalen Slawson (11 pts, 11 rebs, 4 asts, 2 stls, 1 blk) and Mike Bothwell (9 pts, 4 asts, 3 rebs) were recognized for their outstanding accomplishments during the past five seasons for the Furman basketball program. For Slawson, his 11 points and 11 rebounds marked his 18th-career double-double, which included his eighth of the season, as he finished the night as one of those five Paladins in double figures. The third senior recognized was Rett Lister, who started the first game of his Paladin career against the Bucs and has been a vital part of the Furman program over the past four seasons as a walk-on performer.
For a second-straight game, the SoCon’s career active leading scorer was held just below a double-figure scoring output, however, the senior from Cleveland Heights, OH, inched ever closer to 2,000 points for his standout career, as his nine points in the win over the Bucs got him to 1,891 points in his standout career for the Paladins. Bothwell, who currently ranks sixth in school history in career points scored, needs only 109 points to become just the fifth player in program history and first in two decades to eclipse the 2,000-point plateau for his career. The last Paladin to accomplish the rare feat on the college basketball hardwood was Karim Souchu (2000-03), who finished his career with 2,014 career points. For both Bothwell and Slawson, it also marked the 110th win overall for the duo in their respective careers, needing just one more win to tie former Paladin Alex Hunter (2017-22) for all-time wins in a career.
Furman was led in the contest by Marcus Foster’s 15 points. Foster, who led the Paladins with 21 points and 11 rebounds in Furman’s 70-56 win at ETSU back on Jan. 7, was again a vital part of Furman’s offensive effort in the second meeting between the two this season, as he knocked down 5-of-10 shots from the field, including 1-for-4 from three-point range and was 4-of-6 from the charity stripe to round out his offensive night. Foster added six rebounds, three assists and three steals to round out what was a solid all-around night.
J.P. Pegues continued his solid offensive play of late by adding 13 points and two assists, while Garrett Hien matched Pegues with 13, as the junior forward posted his second-straight game in double figures. Slawson added 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Alex Williams finished with another solid effort off the Paladin bench with 10.
ETSU finished the night with three players in double figures, with Jordan King, who posted just five points in the first meeting between the two back in January, posting a game-high 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field and a 2-for-6 effort from three-point range. The junior guard was also a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe. King rounded out his strong scoring night by dishing out four assists and corralling three rebounds.
Joining King in double figures for the Bucs in the win were Jalen Haynes (18 pts, 7 rebs) and Jaden Seymour (15 pts, 9 rebs). Seymour’s 15 points for ETSU was a career-high, eclipsing his previous career-best performance of 13 points recorded earlier this season in a win at The Citadel. It marked just the fifth time the Bucs had scored 79 or more points in a game this season, as the Bucs had been 4-0 in those games prior to Sunday night’s setback to the Paladins. It marked just the second time in Southern Conference play that the Bucs had scored 79 or more points in a league game, as ETSU posted 96 in a road win at The Citadel in mid-January. The loss also marked the Bucs’ 10th in a game decided by four points or less.
ETSU finished the night with an impressive shooting clip, connecting on 54.5% (30-of-55) from the field, including a 50.0% (10-for-20) effort from three-point range.
Furman, meanwhile, finished the night connecting on 49.2% (30-of-61) from the field, however, struggled from long-range, as the Paladins were only able to connect on 30.8% (8-of-26) from three-point land.
All told, the Paladins ended up holding advantages in total rebounds (30-29), total assists (20-16), points in the paint (42-40), bench points (35-14), points off turnovers (14-10) and fast-break points (12-2). ETSU finished the night holding the advantage in second-chance points (10-8).
How It Happened:
Coming off a road loss at The Citadel Wednesday evening, the Paladins would run into an ETSU basketball team that came to Greenville intent on bringing a win back to Johnson City. That, coupled with the emotions of Senior Night celebrating two of Furman’s finest performers during the modern era and throw in a nationally-televised game to-boot, and you realize that trio of challenges were going to require a keen focus from Furman the entire night to carve out win No. 22 of the 2022-23 season.
Whether bothered by the emotions of Senior Night or some other reason, the Paladins got off to another rocky start—a theme which was particularly notable at times in Furman’s recent eight-game winning streak—turning the ball over on its first two possessions, as the visiting Bucs got out to a 5-0 lead following a layup by Jordan King and a Jamarius Hairston three-pointer, for five-straight following a turnover on ETSU’s first possession of the night. After a J.P. Pegues three-pointer tied the game, 7-7, with 16:42 remaining in the opening half, ETSU would assume its largest lead of the night at 13-7 following a King three-point play the old-fashioned way, as well as a three-pointer from DeAnthony Tipler with 14:44 remaining in the opening half.
Furman answered that early run by the Bucs by scoring seven-straight to take its first lead of the night on a Ben VanderWal three-pointer in transition with 13:13 left in the half. The Paladins appeared to have taken control of the game when VanderWal connected on another three to give Furman a six-point, 35-29, lead with just under four minutes remaining in the half. But the Bucs wouldn’t go away, and out-scored the Paladins 8-4 down the stretch in the opening half, getting to within two points at the break, as the Paladins went to the locker room with a narrow 39-37 lead.
A little over five minutes into the second half, it appeared Furman might be ready to take control of the game once again when Mike Bothwell took a pass from Marcus Foster in transition to get a layup and put Furman ahead by its largest of the night, at 53-45, with 14:49 to play. The Bucs weren’t going away, however, and just under four minutes later, ETSU got the score back to a one-possession game when a pair of Justice Smith free throws got the Bucs to within three, at 57-54, with 12:03 left.
ETSU trimmed the deficit even more just a little over two minutes later when Jalen Haynes dunked home two points in the paint after a beautiful feed from DeAnthony Tipler, as he drew Slawson’s attention away from the ETSU big man, and Tipler pulled off the beautiful fake and pass to set his teammate up for the powerful two, trimming Furman’s lead to 61-60 with 9:40 remaining. Alex Williams answered with a three in transition to stretch the lead back to four, however, the two-possession lead would be brief, as Jordan King answered with a high-arching three on the other end to make it a 64-63 game with 9:10 remaining.
Furman once again threatened to pull away, scoring a quick five points as a response to King’s three-pointer. Foster knocked down a three-pointer from the right elbow and then rebounded one of ETSU’s 10 missed layups on the other end. The ball eventually found its way to Carter Whitt, who delivered a beautiful one-handed bounce pass to a hard-charging Jalen Slawson in-stride, who then went up and flushed it home with a one-handed dunk to put the Paladins back up six, at 69-63, with 8:07 remaining.
With Furman leading by five (75-70) following another Slawson dunk with 6:21 remaining, the Bucs mounted one last charge, this time utilizing an 8-0 run, which was both started and ended by Jaden Seymor. Seymour started the run with an emphatic dunk off a second-chance opportunity in the paint, and then with 4:14 left, gave the Bucs the late lead, as his three-pointer was nothing but net to give ETSU the 78-75 lead.
Furman’s defense hadn’t been able to consistently able to stop the Bucs offensively the entire night. That is, until they had to. The Paladins were able to close the game with an 8-1 run and ultimately pick up their 22nd win of the season by getting defensive stops on their final four possessions.
Shortly after Seymour’s three-pointer, Garrett Hien connected on perhaps the biggest shot of the night for the Paladins—a three from the top of the key—tying the game, 78-78, with just under four minutes remaining. Following a media timeout, Slawson would come up with a steal and then was fouled on the other end. He would connect on 1-of-2 foul shots to give the Paladins a 79-78 lead with 3:17 remaining. It would be a lead the Paladins wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way.
Furman closes out its home slate Wednesday night, as Mercer pays a visit to Timmons Arena for a 7 p.m. tip-off. East Tennessee State returns to Freedom Hall to host The Citadel Wednesday night. Tip-off for that contest is set for 7 p.m.
Postgame Press Conference:
–Furman won its 175th game overall and 101st SoCon game since the start of the 2015-16 season.
–Furman claimed the season sweep of East Tennessee State for the first time since the 1986-87 season. Interestingly, it coincides with the last time that Argentina won the World Cup. Argentina also won the World Cup this past December.
–Furman improved to 10-10 against ETSU, which includes an 8-1 mark at Timmons Arena, since the Bucs rejoined the Southern Conference in 2014-15. Furman trails the all-time series to the Bucs, 34-33.
–With wins in its last two regular-season games vs. Mercer and at Samford, Furman would garner the No. 1 seed for the Southern Conference Tournament in Asheville for the first time since the 1979-80 season.