Furman ends three-game series skid vs VMI

Mike Bothwell was one of four Paladins in double figures as Paladins snap streak against Keydets Wednesday night at the midway point of league play

Furman claimed its third-straight win and its sixth victory in its last seven outings, as the Paladins snapped a three-game losing skid to VMI with a 79-64 win over the Keydets Wednesday night at Timmons Arena. 

With the win, Furman improved to 15-7 overall and 7-2 in Southern Conference action, remaining a half-game behind Chattanooga in the loss column, who also won with a 71-60 win over Wofford, to stay atop the league standings, while VMI saw its record fall to 11-10 overall and 4-5 in SoCon action.

Furman’s win avenged an earlier season, 76-67, loss at VMI in the Paladins’ first SoCon road loss. The Paladins were knocked out of the Southern Conference Tournament last March in a 91-90 overtime in the quarterfinals of the 2021 at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in Asheville last March. 

The Paladins’ win also saw them improve to 10-1 at Timmons Arena this season, and 83-13 overall and 48-6 against SoCon competition in the friendly confines of the on-campus facility since the start of the 2015-16 season. With wins of 38, 25 and 15 points in its last three Southern Conference games against Western Carolina, at Wofford and VMI, Furman is boasting an average margin of victory of 26 points-per-game in its last three outings. 

The mid-week SoCon clash between the Paladins and Keydets marked a clash between the two national leaders in three-pointers made, with Furman’s 257 made triples leading the nation, while VMI’s 254 trifectas ranking second nationally. The Paladins finished the night going 14-of-41 (34.1%) from three-point land, while holding the Keydets to just 8-of-23 (34.8%) from three-point land in the contest. It marked just the fourth time this season the Keydets have been held to less than double-digit three-pointers made in a game this season, including their second-lowest number of threes made in a game. 

The Paladins now have 271 three-pointers made this season, while VMI has 262 triples made. Furman is on pace to break its school record of 338 three-pointers made in a season, which was established in Bob Richey’s first season as the head coach of the 2017-18 campaign. In the past three games, Furman has connected on 53 three-pointers, connecting on 45.2% from long-range in the past three games. The Paladins are 2-2 in games in which they fail to connect on at least 10 triples in a game this season, while the Keydets also dropped to 2-2 in games in which they failed to reach at least 10 three-pointers in a game. 

The Paladins were led in the contest by four players in double figures, adding 19 assists to an already gaudy total, which led the nation entering the matchup.

For the second time in conference play, the Paladins were led in scoring by Conley Garrison, who posted a game-high 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field, which included a 5-of-8 effort from three-point land.

Earlier this season, Garrison scored 23 second-half points in a 78-69 win over East Tennessee State. Garrison came into the contest against VMI ranking third in the SoCon in three-point field goal percentage (47%). 

In addition to his scoring performance, Garrison was a huge part of Furman’s 47-32 advantage on the backboards, including 18 offensive boards, as Garrison finished the night with six of his eight boards coming on the offensive glass.

Garrison’s effort accounted for one-third of Furman’s offensive rebounds, and was a big part of helping the Paladins hold a sizable 22-7 edge in second-chance points. The Drury transfer also added four assists and a block. 

Jalen Slawson continued his outstanding play as of late, adding 21 points, four steals, three blocks, two assists, and nine rebounds. The senior from Summerville, S.C., connected on 8-of-14 shots from the field, which included another impressive performance shooting from long-range, as he went 4-for-8 from three-point land. In the past two games, Slawson has gone 8-for-14 from three-point land. He has now scored in double figures in 19 of Furman’s 22 games so far this season. 

Senior classmates Mike Bothwell and Alex Hunter rounded out the Paladins in double figures, adding 14 and 10 points, respectively. Bothwell finished his night going 6-of-16 from the field, including 1-of-7 from three-point land, while adding eight boards, four assists, a steal and a block.

Hunter, a senior from Raleigh, N.C., finished the night with his 10 points coming on a 3-for-10 shooting effort from long-range and 2-of-8 from three-point range. His performance from three-point range gives him 281 triples for his career, and with eight more triples this season, the former Leesville-Road High School standout will be Furman’s all-time three-point king, surpassing former Paladin great Jordan Lyons’ 288-career triples, which he set from 2016-20. In addition to his scoring production, Hunter finished the night by handing out five assists, three rebounds, a steal and a block. 

VMI finished the night with with three players in double figures, with senior Jake Stephens leading the way with 20 points, while Kamdyn Curfman added 16 and Trey Bonham added 11. Stephens, a senior from Bunker Hill, WVa, connected on 8-of-15 shots from the field, including 1-for-4 from three-point range. Fifteen of his 20 points in the contest came in the opening half of play. Additionally, Stephens added a team-best eight rebounds, blocked a shot, and added an assist, while committing four turnovers. 

Furman finished the night connecting on 41.8% (28-of-67) from the field, which included a 34.1% (14-of-41) from three-point land. Meanwhile, the Paladins held VMI to 41.1% (23-of-56) from the field and 34.8% (8-of-23) from three-point land. 

The Paladins ended the night holding advantages in total rebounds (47-32), second-chance points (22-7), total assists (19-14), fast-break points (7-5), bench points (5-0), and total steals (8-5). The Keydets held an advantage in points from turnovers (9-8). Both teams were even at points in the paint (28-28). VMI concluded the night connecting on 71.4% (10-for-14) from the charity stripe, while the Paladins were 69.2% (9-of-13) from the stripe. 

All told, the contest featured four ties and five lead changes, with the Paladins holding the upper hand for 32:50 total in the game, while the Keydets found themselves with the advantages for a 5:11 span in the game. 

How It Happened:

Not too many teams have caused head coach Bob Richey quite as much trouble in now his fifth season at the helm of the Furman basketball program than VMI, especially in recent seasons.  The only teams to have claimed three-straight wins over Furman during Richey’s five seasons as Paladin head coach are Wofford, UNCG and VMI. And Wednesday night’s 15-point, 79-64 win over Dan Earl’s Keydets, which snapped VMI’s three-game winning streak in the series wouldn’t come as easy as the score might indicate. 

With last season’s meeting in Greenville having been canceled due to positive COVID-19 tests within the Keydets basketball program, it marked VMI’s first trip to Timmons Arena since a 74-72 overtime win by the Paladins on Jan. 29, 2020. 

The Paladins had a fight on their hands the entire way. However, what’s become a theme as of late for the Paladins has been how they have been able to close out wins. Especially on the home floor in close games against East Tennessee State and VMI. Against the Bucs, the Paladins ended the game 9-0 run over the final 2:58 to go on to a 78-69 win some 14 days ago. On Wednesday night, the Paladins would once again break open a close game late, closing out the final five minutes on an 18-3 run to secure the 15-point win. 

The Paladins seemed to be in good shape just after the first media timeout of the second half, as Conley Garrison’s layup of a rare VMI turnover gave the Paladins a seemingly comfortable eight-point, 49-41, lead with 14:32 remaining, which nearly matched their nine-point (39-30) halftime lead.

However, with the way Dan Earl’s club shoots the three ball, they are never really out of the contest. The Keydets quickly cut the Paladin lead in half on a layup by Jake Stephens in the lane, and following an Honor Huff steal off an errant J.P. Pegues pass, Tre Bonham drove in on the left side for a layup, slicing Furman’s lead to four, at 49-45, with 13:40 left. 

Furman responded with a Joe Anderson triple from the left elbow with 13:16 left on the ensuing possession, pushing the lead back to seven, however,  Sean Conway answered with a top of the key three on the other end, bringing the Keydets back to within 52-48 with just over 13 minutes left. 

Tre Bonham then made a pair of free throws following an Anderson miss on the other end, as he was fouled by Furman freshman wing Tyrese Hughey on his way to the basket. Bonham knocked down both shots of the two-shot trip to the charity stripe, as brought the Keydets to within 52-50 with 12:29 remaining. 

Over the next four minutes, both teams went cold from the field with only a Mike Bothwell layup in the paint following a fast-break made it a 54-50 contest with 11:34 remaining. With the Keydets trailing 52-50 and following a Curfman steal, VMI had a chance to take the lead, but the junior’s three in transition was off the mark, leaving the Paladins clinging to just a two-point lead. Bothwell’s layup on the next possession helped the Paladins to the aforementioned two-possession lead. It wouldn’t be until a Bothwell rebound and ensuing layup off an Alex Hunter missed three-pointer that would see the Paladins increase their lead to six, at 56-50, with 8:46 remaining. 

The Keydets would score the next seven points to take a somewhat surprising lead, and it looked a lot like Dan Earl’s club might be well on its way to stealing a fourth-straight win in the series against the Paladins. Conway’s jumper in the paint cut Furman’s lead to four (56-52), and following a bad pass by Slawson, the Keydets were quick to make the Paladins pay with a three from Curfman in transition with 7:14 remaining to make it a one-point game, at 56-55. Following a missed three from the wing by Slawson, Huff blew past Hunter on the left side going to the hoop, nearly converting the three-point play the old fashioned way before the shot just rolled out on the opposite side on a reverse layup attempt. Huff’s two foul shots with 6:20 left helped the Keydets take their first lead since the score was 11-8 with 14:04 remaining in the opening half of play. 

On one of the most important possessions of the game, Slawson came up big following a made layup in the paint while being fouled by Curfman in a mismatch in the paint. Slawson conveyed the foul shot to help the Paladins regain a 59-57 lead with just over six minutes remaining. 

The Keydets tied it on a Curfman jumper in the lane before Slawson responded with another layup on the other end to give Furman a 61-59 lead with 5:26 left. After Stephens made a baby-hook in the lane to tie it, 61-61, with 5:08 remaining,  Garrison made perhaps the biggest shot of the night on a pull-up three from the top of the key with 4:51 remaining to give the Paladins the lead for good, at 64-61. 

Bothwell and Furman’s defense took over from there. A key Slawson block on Stephens, which was corralled by Bothwell proved to be one of those game-winning details, and it was the senior from Cleveland Heights, OH, that would score on a three-point play the old fashioned way after a Conley Garrison offensive rebound on the other end, eventually giving the Paladins a 67-61 lead with 3:58 remaining. 

From there, VMI would get as close as five, at 68-63, following a pair of Curfman foul shots with 3:05 left following a foul by Slawson in the act of shooting. After a pair of Bonham foul shots saw the Keydets cut it to two possessions, at 70-64, with 2:02 remaining, a Slawson triple from the left elbow with 1:35 all but sealed Furman’s 15th win of the season, including the 10th on its home floor. 

In the opening half of play, it was the Keydets that got off to the fast start, leading for most of the opening six minutes of the contest, taking a 6-2 lead on a Curfman three just 1:59 into the contest and then again giving the Keydets a 9-8 lead following a three from the right elbow with just under 15 minutes remaining in the half. A Honor Huff layup off a double-clutch reverse in traffic allowed the Keydets to take an 11-8 lead with 14:04 remaining in the half. Fifteen of the first 17 combined points in the contest came off made three-pointers, which gave the three-pointers made rankings street cred from the outset. 

Postgame Press Conference:

Jalen Slawson (left)/Conley Garrison (right)
Furman head coach Bob Richey

Stats:

Up Next: Furman will travel to face Mercer (12-9, 5-3 SoCon) Saturday afternoon at Hawkins Arena. Furman won 81-66 in the meeting between the two earlier this season in a game played at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. The Bears dropped a 75-61 contest at Samford Wednesday night. It will be a meeting of No. 2 and No. 3 in the SoCon standings, respectively, and the 6 p.m. EST tip-off will be televised nationally by CBS Sports Network.

Furman makes statement in win over Western Carolina

Furman guard J.P. Pegues scores a career-high 18 points on six triples in Furman’s 88-50 win over Western Carolina Wednesday night

In sports, it’s sometimes difficult to know how a team will respond after a tough loss. For Furman, coming off a 71-69 heartbreaker at league-leading Chattanooga Saturday, the opening minutes of a midweek SoCon midweek test against Western Carolina were tense, and the Catamounts took an 8-7 lead following a three-pointer by Marvin Price with 13 minutes remaining in the half.

It would turn out to be the final lead of the night for the Catamounts, as the Paladins used a 24-2 run to take command of the game, culminating with a J.P. Pegues triple with 3:23 remaining in the half. 

From that point forward, it was all Paladins, and it would result in an 88-50 win over the Catamounts. The 38-point win was Furman’s second 30-plus point triumph in Southern Conference play this season at Timmons Arena this season, opening league play with a 32-point, 81-49, win over Samford to open the Southern Conference play back on Dec. 29. 

The win saw the Paladins improve to 13-7 overall and 5-2 in SoCon play, while the Catamounts dropped to 8-11 overall and 2-4 in Southern Conference action. 

Furman was powered by 21 three-pointers, with 14 of those trifectas coming in the second half. The Paladins knocked down 19 of their final 31 attempts from three-point range in the contest on what was another blistering shooting night for the Paladins from long-range. The Paladins came into the contest ranking fourth in the nation in three-pointers made with 218 made triples entering the contest with the Catamounts, and ended the night with 239 made trifectas. 

Furman also improved to 82-13 at Timmons Arena and 47-6 against Southern Conference competition since the start of the 2015-16 season. The Paladins have also produced an impressive mark of 81-31 against Southern Conference opposition, while having posted 144-69  overall record. Furman also won its 12th-straight in the series against the Catamounts, and improved to 51-29 in the overall series against the Catamounts. 

The Paladins posted three players in double figures, including Birthday boy Mike Bothwell, who paced the Paladins with 26 points, while J.P. Pegues added a career-high 18 points, while Conley Garrison dropped his second double-figure scoring effort in the past three outings, finishing with 12 points.

Bothwell finished 9-of-17 shooting from the field, including 4-of-9 from three-point range and was a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe. The senior from Cleveland Heights, OH., also added three rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal in the win. 

Pegues, a true freshman point guard from Nashville, Tenn., did a majority of his damage from three-point range, as he went 6-for-9 from long-range along with going 6-of-10 overall from the field on the night. Pegues also added four rebounds, three assists and a steal.

Garrison rounded out the double-figure scorers with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field, including 4-for-6 from three-point land. The grad transfer from Drury University added three assists, a steal, and a rebound to his overall totals in the contest.

Following a 22-point outing at Chattanooga this past Saturday, senior forward Jalen Slawson finished with three points against the Catamounts, but he did it in other areas in the mid-week win over Western Carolina. He posted a team-high 10 rebounds and also added a team-high five assists in 24:58 of floor time.

The Catamounts finished the contest with two players in double figures, with Vonterrius Woolbright leading the way with 14 points on 5-of-12 shooting from the field and was a perfect 4-for-4 from the line. He also led the Catamounts with seven rebounds. The only other Catamount in double figures was Marcus Banks, who finished with 11 points. 

The Paladins finished the night connecting on 45.3% (29-of-64) from the field, which included a 47.7% (21-of-44) shooting effort from three-point land. The 16 points allowed in the opening half against the Catamounts were the lowest point total allowed in a half since holding Western Carolina to 14 points in a half in an 85-37 victory back on Jan. 25, 2017. 

Western Carolina, meanwhile, completed the night connecting on just 34.0% (18-of-53) from the field and connected on just 17.4% (4-of-23) from three-point land. 

Like Furman, the Catamounts entered the contest as one of the most prolific three-point shooting teams in the country, as Western Carolina came in ranking seventh nationally in three-pointers made with 196 made triples, and with its four made triples in Wednesday night’s loss, are now at an even 200 made threes this season. 

Furman finished the contest holding advantages in total rebounds (42-32), total assists (25-9), second-chance points (10-2), points from turnovers (26-12), bench scoring (34-24), and fast-break points (9-8). The Catamounts held a 26-14 advantage in points in the paint.

In Bob Richey’s five seasons as the head coach, the Paladins have connected on 1,442 three-pointers, attempting 4,017, which computes to a percentage of 35.9% during that span. Furman’s 338 made three-pointers during the 2017-18 season are a school single-season record. Furman’s 21 triples on Wednesday night puts the Paladins at 239 three-pointers through 20 games in 2021-22.

How It Happened:

Both teams got off to a bit off a tentative start early on, with defense dictating how things went over the first seven minutes of the game. 

Furman jumped out to 7-2 lead via a three-pointer from Conley Garrison, a Mike Bothwell layup and a pair of free throws from Bothwell with 14:07 remaining in the opening half. The Catamounts responded with back-to-back triples from Marcus Banks and a Marvin Price triple that seemed to hit every part of the rim before falling through the hoop with 13 minutes remaining, giving the Catamounts an 8-7 lead. 

Furman then got four-straight points from Mike Bothwell on a pair of layups, which was followed by a Tyrese Hughey tear-drop jumper, giving the Paladins a quick 5-0 spurt and a 13-8 lead with 9:09 to play in the opening half. It was the only the beginning. 

Following that quick spurt, Furman used five-consecutive three-pointers to basically put the game out of reach, while holding the Catamounts scoreless from the field during a 9:55 span, with Western Carolina’s only points during that stretch coming on a pair of Banks free throws at the 6:53 mark of the opening half.

During Furman’s barrage of six-straight threes, the Paladins got triples from Mike Bothwell, Alex Hunter, while both J.P. Pegues and Joe Anderson hit a pair of threes apiece during the stretch. It all culminated in a 24-2 run and a 31-10 lead for the Paladins with 3:25 remaining in the opening half. 

A Joe Petrakis triple from the left elbow with 3:05 remaining in the half snapped what had been a nearly 10-minute scoring drought for the Catamounts, making it a 31-13 contest. Cam Bacote and Mike Bothwell traded buckets before a Petrakis 1-of-2 performance at the line provided the final point of the half, with the Paladins going to the locker room with a commanding 33-16 lead.

Furman held the Catamounts to just 17.9% (5-of-28) from the field in the opening half, and just 17.6% (3-of-17) from three-point land in the opening half of play.

In the second half, the Paladins would play even better, putting together maybe their two most complete halves of basketball of the season. The Paladins opened the half with a 24-10 run over the first 8:10 of the second half to assume a 57-26 advantage with 11:50 remaining. 

A 31-point lead would grow to 40, at 72-32, following a triple from Alex Hunter five minutes later. With 3:23 remaining, Furman grew its lead to its largest of the evening following a pair of Bothwell foul shots, as Furman took a 44-point lead, at 82-38. The Paladins were able to clear the bench in the final two minutes, with guards Robert Swanson, Rett Lister, and Jaylon Pugh all getting into the game, as well as forwards Ben Beeker and James Repass.  

In the second half alone, the Paladins connected on 51.5% (17-of-33) from the field and a blistering 58.3% (14-of-24) from three-point range. Fourteen of Furman’s 17 field goals in the second half came from long range. 

Post-game Press Conference:

J.P. Pegues and Mike Bothwell
Furman head coach Bob Richey

Up Next:

Furman (13-7, 5-2 SoCon) heads to I-85 rival Wofford (12-7, 4-3 SoCon), as the Paladins go in search of their first win over the Terriers since a 67-66 victory over the Terriers on Feb. 19, 2020 at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena.

The Terriers have claimed seven of the last nine games in the series, and Furman has never won at the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium. The last time Furman claimed a win over Wofford in Spartanburg was Jan. 24, 2011, with a 73-68 win at the Benjamin-Johnson Arena. All told, the Paladins have lost 10-straight games at Wofford.

Furman loses tough battle at preseason favorite Chattanooga

Paladins drop heartbreaker in Scenic City

In a matchup between the SoCon’s two top projected teams in the preseason, it was  consensus preseason favorite Chattanooga that held off preseason No. 2 pick Furman,  71-69, as the Mocs pulled a half-game ahead before an electric crowd of 3,607 at McKenzie Arena on-hand with the threat of inclement weather in the forecast. . 

With the win, Chattanooga improves to 14-4 overall and 4-1 in SoCon, while Furman fell to 12-7 overall and 4-2 in Southern Conference play.

On a day when Chattanooga fans were encouraged to wear gold, it was Chattanooga’s rowdy fan base that made it a true old-school Southern Conference atmosphere, and it proved to be a true “sixth man” as the Mocs were able to hold serve at home even playing without the services of David Jean-Baptiste, and needed its crowd to be loud to help snap what was an eight-game losing streak in the series to the Paladins.

While the game didn’t rest on one shot as winning or losing the game for either Furman or Chattanooga, it did come down to the Mocs blitzing the Paladins 37-25 on the glass, while seeing the Mocs have their role players step up in mature moments when they had to a little more than Furman—a stat which isn’t and can’t be analytically measured in what is a sport now driven by stats and analytical input. 

Ultimately, it was the veteran maturity of Malachi Smith, who converted both ends of a 1-and-1 foul by Mike Bothwell on one end with 7.6 seconds remaining, while it was the Paladins calling timeout to set up a perfect play for sophomore guard on the other, in Marcus Foster. 

The the good news is, like life, basketball isn’t judged in one moment. Foster’s missed layup with a little over a second remaining won’t be a reflection on what has been and will be an outstanding career for the promising young player from Atlanta, however, on this particular afternoon in the Scenic City, it will serve as a memory for both him individually to grow from as he continues to mature as into a finished product as a standout player, while it also serves a moment for the Mocs to realize their own moment of growth as a collective team, overcoming a nemesis, in a really good Furman team that had beaten them eight-straight times. 

Foster had been one of Furman’s few bright spots on the boards and had just connected on a key triple from the corner moments earlier, it that was something Furman head coach Bob Richey was keen to point out postgame. Richey acknowledged his miss, but realized Foster’s importance far outweighed his moment of human error he will most assuredly learn a great, but hard lesson from.

“It’s just a missed wide-open layup by Marcus [Foster], but the game didn’t come down to that,” Furman head coach Bob Richey said. 

“I feel terrible for Marcus…He’s worked really, really hard…Marcus Foster was a plus two when he was out in the game so for there to be any thought to that’s why we lost the game is crazy…Every time he was out on the court tonight cumulatively we were plus two…Marcus did a lot and he led us in rebounding on a day when we got destroyed on the glass,” Richey added.

While Furman has had to learn the hard way in some close losses this season, it hasn’t been as often for the league-leading Mocs, although it could be argued its lesson learned at Western Carolina in a 70-59 setback was more humbling than perhaps all of Furman’s close setbacks combined.

It seems that in Furman’s losses this season, they haven’t won the gritty battles necessary for success. The losses to Navy, VMI and now Chattanooga are evidence of that. However, in other games, like the wins over Appalachian State, College of Charleston, UNCG and Louisville, the grit and toughness required was evident.

Senior big man Jalen Slawson led all scorers with 22 points

A contrast of toughness…A Brief Look Back to the last meeting

Saturday’s loss to Chattanooga came in complete contrast to the lone meeting between the two last season, which resulted in a 77-73 win for Furman at McKenzie Arena. The Paladins were tougher and more physical in the paint, and just one glance at the Dec. 30, 2020 game gives full evidence of that. 

The story of that some 381 days ago was what Furman did in the paint, and that was simply dominate the game from start to finish.  The Paladins dominated the paint to the tune of a 50-18 edge in points in the paint. That help off-set a 4-for-14 performance from three-point range for the Paladins.

Meanwhile, the Mocs were red-hot from three-point range in the contest, finishing going 13-of-26 from beyond the arc. In last year’s game, both Furman and Chattanooga shot the ball well from the field, with the Paladins connecting on 51.8% from the field for the game, while the Mocs shot the ball at a 47.3% clip for the game. 

Furman held advantages in points off turnovers (15-10), points in the paint (50-18), second-chance points (14-2), total rebounds (33-26), and fast-break points (5-0). The Mocs held a substantial edge in bench scoring (35-9). The game featured 10 lead changes and four ties.

Much of that was because Chattanooga was staying locked in on Furman’s shooters, not giving them any air on the perimeter. That forced Furman into a lot of 2-on-2 basketball, with the pick-and-roll making the Paladins look like the Utah Jazz under Jerry Sloan at times in the win, with such crisp cutting away from the basketball making Furman’s brand of hoops a beautifully designed production in motion.

“They stayed out on our shooters and we just did a great job of attacking the paint all night. I thought we were patient with our offense and let the ball move,”  Furman coach Bob Richey told Dan Scott on the Furman Radio Network’s postgame interview.

Plenty to do before Asheville

While Chattanooga and Furman might be the best two teams currently in the Southern Conference, the game seemingly highlighted decencies more than strengths at this point in the season, even though it looked like a great performance aesthetically before a national television audience on CBS Sports Network.

Furman’s senior big man Jalen Slawson led all scorers with 22 points, while the Mocs got a team-high 21 points to match his SoCon leading scoring average coming into the matchup. 

Slawson finished out the night connecting on 8-of-14 shots from the field, and was 1-of-5 from three-point range, and was a perfect 5-for-5 from the free throw line. Slawson also finished with four rebounds,  four assists, recorded a pair of steals and blocked a shot in another strong performance for the senior big man from Summerville, S.C., recorded his 17th double-figure performance in 19 games this season. His 22-point effort marked his fourth game of the season of 20 or more points.

Following a first half which saw the senior Paladin post player seven points on 3-of-7 shooting from the field, and 1-of-3 from three-point range. In the second half, Slawson came alive to score 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field and was a perfect 5-for-5 from the charity stripe. The only two shots Slawson missed in the second half were from three-point land.  

Slawson was joined in double figures by classmate Mike Bothwell, who posted 15 points, while graduate senior Alex Hunter finished with 13, as the trio once again accounted for a majority of the Paladin points scoring 50 of the Paladins’ 69 points in the contest.

Bothwell posted his seventh-straight double-figure scoring effort since going scoreless in the loss at Mississippi State, posting his 15 points on 5-of-12 from the field, including 1-of-3 from three-point land. Bothwell was also a perfect 4-of-4 from the charity stripe. 

The senior from Cleveland Heights, OH, added four assists, three rebounds and a block. In the past three outings against Mercer, ETSU and Chattanooga, Bothwell is sharing the basketball as well as any Paladin of late, having posting a combined total of 15 assists. 

Hunter rounded out the double-figure scoring efforts for the Paladins, posting his 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting from the field, including 3-of-6 from three-point range. Hunter finished with eight of his 13 points in the opening half of play to tie for the team lead. The senior guard from Raleigh, N.C., had one of the rarest stat lines of his career, failing to dish out a single assist in the contest, while turning the ball over twice. 

He is easily going to end his Paladin career with the best assist-turnover ratios in program history, and will likely rank up there in SoCon in history in that same statistic. It marked only the second time in the past two seasons he has had zero assists in a game, with no assists in a win over Southern Wesleyan during the 2020-21 campaign. The graduate senior also added three rebounds.

Senior grad transfer Conley Garrison, who was coming off a 23-point second half against ETSU to help lead the Paladins to an impressive nine-point home win, followed it up with an outstanding opening half of play against the Mocs in the opening half of play, tying Hunter for team-high scoring honors, scoring eight points on 3-of-3 shooting from the field and 2-of-2 from three-point range. He ended with eight points on 3-of-4 from the field and ended 2-of-3 from from long range. He also added four rebounds, two assists and a pair of steals. 

Smith was simply sensational as he has been for most of the season for the Mocs, and showed why he was the leader in the clubhouse to garner the league’s player-of-the-year award, as he posted his 21 points on 7-of-14 from the field, and 2-of-4 from three-point range. Smith also went 5-for-6 from the charity stripe. Like Slawson for the Paladins, Smith had a big second half.  

After connecting on just 2-of-6 from the field and scoring four points in the opening half, Smith came alive in the second half, connecting on 5-of-8 shots from the field, including 2-for-2 from three-point range and was 5-for-6 from beyond the arc in the second half. He just missed posting his second double-double of the season, finishing with nine boards. He also had one assist and a pair of steals. 

Smith also picked up his league-leading 12th game with 20 or more points-per-game this season, including his fourth in conference play alone.

Joining Smith in double figures for UTC were Grant Ledford, who finished with 13 points, while Kansas grad transfer Silvio De Sousa added 11 points, with all of his offensive production coming in the opening half of play, as he led all scorers in the opening half of play. De Sousa also finished with seven rebounds. De Sousa accounted for all of the team’s seven points prior to the first media timeout of the contest.

Ledford ended up being the x-factor off the bench for the Mocs, as his 13 points came on a 5-of-6 shooting performance from the field, including a 3-for-4 effort from three. It marked just Ledford’s third double-figure effort of the season, and first since posting an 18-point effort in a lopsided pre-Thanksgiving win over Covenant. 

Ledford’s performance almost entirely made up for the absence of Jean-Baptiste, who was the Mocs’ second-leading scorer coming into the contest, averaging 14.6 PPG. Ledford, redshirt junior A.J. Caldwell, and junior K.C. Hankton all exceeded their point totals coming into the contest, and the trio combined to score 26 points to the Mocs cause.

Making Ledford’s performance even more vital for UTC was the fact that his 3-of-4 effort from three and 5-of-6 effort from the field were contrary to anything he had done on the court shooting-wise for Chattanooga the entire season. He came in with a 35.7% (25-of-70) field goal percentage for the season, which included a 24.9% clip (12-of-49) from three-point land. That thought was not one lost on head coach Lamont Paris, who needed his team and his role players to respond following Wednesday night’s loss at Western Carolina and knowing that, for a second-straight game, the Mocs would be without one of their key leaders.

“Oftentimes that’s what it comes down to and often you get to thinking about relying on the main guy or whatever level that’s at whether be college level or the pros,” head coach Lamont Paris said. 

“Here’s the best guy…or the guy who scores the most or we got to rely on him or its got to go to him but what normally or generally keeps it going is not for one guy to do it for an entire game unless you have a Michael Jordan going for 63 points or the flu game or something like that right…It’s hard to do it for the whole duration of the game because you need some help even if you’re having a great day and quite often it comes down to a just a shot…Even for them on the last play…if you look at it even if he makes that shot or shoots the three from the corner…He’s probably not option A on that little scenario but he was at that time so to have a guy or guys step up and make those plays…It’s  critical to winning and losing, and if you’re only banking on your best scorers then you’re probably going to have a lot of night’s like we did at Western Carolina,” he added. 

The Particulars and other Notables:

Furman held the lead for 22:55 of the contest, which included taking a 38-33 lead into the half-time locker room only to see the Mocs out-score them 38-31 in the second half. In both SoCon losses this season, the Paladins have surrendered halftime leads on the road. The Paladins surrendered a 36-30 halftime lead at VMI only to drop a 76-67 decision at Cameron Hall. 

Chattanooga held the lead for 13:59 in the contest. The game would feature six lead changes and five ties, with each team leading by as much as eight points in each respective half. Furman held an eight-point lead (25-17) with 8:41 remaining in the first half, while the Mocs held an eight-point lead (52-44) with 12:53 left in the second half. 

As a team, Furman completed the contest connecting on 44.6% (25-of-56) shots from the field, including connecting on 39.1% (9-of-23) from three-point range. 

Chattanooga finished the afternoon connecting on 47.5% (28-of-59) from the field, while like Furman, made 39.1% (9-of-23) of its long-range shots. 

Both Furman and Chattanooga shot the ball well from the charity stripe, with the Paladins hitting 90.9% (10-of-11) of its free throws, while the Mocs were 85.7% (6-of-7).

Chattanooga improved its record to 31-11 against Furman in Chattanooga, while improving to 55-37 in the all-time series. The Paladins dropped to 1-2 in games decided by three points or less and 0-5 when scoring 60-69 points. The Paladins also saw their road record dip to 4-6 this season.

The Mocs also finished the game by owning advantages in fast-break points (7-2), points in the paint (28-24), bench points (19-6), total rebounds (37-25), and total assists (12-10).

Furman finished the contest with advantages in points from turnovers (16-6) and second-chance points (12-11). 

How It Happened:

Furman and Chattanooga would play a game worthy of the top two teams at the top of the Southern Conference, as it was sloppy at times on both ends, but at others, it sheer beautiful basketball. Both the Paladins and Mocs played hard, and gave the atmosphere on-hand inside McKenzie Arena plenty of credence.

The Paladins opened the game with a strong half of basketball, as.Furman was able to shoot 50% in the opening half (15-of-30) to take a 38-33 lead into the half.

Chattanooga started the game in strong fashion, however, as Silvio De Sousa scored the seven points before the first media timeout, opening the scoring with a three-pointer from the top of the key 53 seconds into the contest, bringing a roar from nearly 4,000 fans on-hand in anticipation of a championship level basketball game. 

The Paladins answered with their first points of the day, posting a layup following an offensive rebound from Jalen Slawson. After De Sousa got a rebound and put-back of his own on to give the Mocs a 5-2 advantage, Conley Garrison answered with his first of two threes in the opening half to tie the contest, 5-5. De Sousa finished off his strong start with a reverse layup off the window off a spin move on the baseline to make it a 7-5 lead, as the two teams headed to the first media timeout. 

The Paladins were able to take advantage of hot-shooting from three in the opening half of play, as the Paladins connected on seven of their nine threes in the opening half of play, shooting 58.3% (7-of-12) from downtown, which was a big reason why the Paladins were able to extend their lead to as much as eight points following the first media timeout.

A 9-0 spurt on a pair of threes from Alex Hunter, and another from Tyrese Hughey combined with a free throw from Garrett Hien allowed the Paladins to double up the Mocs, 14-7, with 13:17 remaining in the opening frame. A Grant Ledford three and a layup by Malachi Smith got the Mocs back to within two points before Garrison answered with Furman’s fourth three of the opening half to make it a 17-12 game with 12:16 left in the opening half.

An Avery Diggs layup following a J.P. Pegues missed three-pointer cut UTC’s deficit to three, and then after a Slawson missed triple, Mocs guard Tada Stricklen found Ledford open in the corner to tie the contest, 17-17, with just under 11 minutes remaining in the opening half of play. 

A quick 10-3 spurt by the Paladins following the second media timeout gave the Paladins a 27-20 lead on a Slawson layup with 7:47 to play in the opening frame. During the spurt, the Paladins assumed their biggest lead of the game on an 8-0 run on a pair of layups from Mike Bothwell, with one coming off a steal and the other off an offensive rebound, while Marcus Foster and Conley Garrison also added layups during the stretch, with Garrison’s layup with 8:41 giving the Paladins what would ultimately be their largest lead of the game, at 25-17.

 Ledford finally answered with a three for the Mocs to get Chattanooga back to within five, at 25-20 with 8:13 remaining in the half. Furman would extend its lead back to as much as seven off a Mocs turnover, as Tyrese Hughey’s slam gave the Paladins a 29-22 with 6:31 left in the opening half.

Chattanooga responded to get as close as three on a K.C. Hankton layup followed by a Darius Banks layup in transition off a Furman turnover to make it a 29-26 Mocs deficit with 3:46 remaining in the half. That would be as close as Chattanooga would get the rest of the half, as Furman eventually pushed its lead back to seven off a long three from the top of the key from Hunter, as Furman assumed a 38-31 lead with 57 seconds remaining in the half.

However, just as Furman went to the locker room with a great deal of momentum in Greenville vs. ETSU following a Garrett Hien three-pointer Wednesday night vs. ETSU, the same would hold true for the Mocs against the Paladins, as De Sousa got the ball in the paint, backed down Slawson, who fell down on the paint, and De Sousa finished with a monster dunk to cut Chattanooga’s lead to five, at 38-33, as the two teams headed to the half. 

In the second half, it wouldn’t take the Mocs long to re-take the lead for the first time since De Sousa’s early seven points had given the Mocs advantage early in the matchup of the two SoCon heavyweights. After Furman took a 40-33 lead with a Slawson bucket in the paint, the Mocs used eight straight points from Malachi Smith to fuel an 8-2 run to cut the Paladin lead to a single point, at 42-41, following a Smith jumper in transition with the half less than three minutes old. 

A pair of Bothwell foul shots extended Furman’s lead back to three, however, five-straight from the Mocs allowed them to take their first lead since the 16:23 mark of the opening half, as Josh Ayeni dropped in a layup to get Chattanooga within a point (43-44), and after the first media timeout of the second half, a Foster missed jumper for the Paladins led to an open A.J. Caldwell triple and a 46-44 Chattanooga lead on the other at the 15:18 mark of the frame.

From there, it looked like the Mocs might blow the game open. Malachi Smith’s two free throws with 12:53 remaining gave the Mocs their largest lead of the game, at 52-44, and was the culmination of a 21-6 run spanning two halves, which saw the Mocs seize control of the game. 

Furman was never going to go away, however, as no championship caliber team ever does. Much as Bob Richey’s club has done all season, the Paladins just kept coming, never letting the Mocs enjoy any comfort. A 10-3 run was just what Richey ordered, and following a Slawson three-point play the old-fashioned way following a Slawson driving baseline layup, which rolled around and dropped through, made it a 55-54 game with 9:02 remaining. 

Over the next four minutes, Chattanooga’s lead would reach four twice, but the Paladins continued to chip answering each time, with the second of those four-point advantages (60-56) answered in emphatic fashion off a set play following the under eight minute media timeout, as Foster’s wide open three keeping Furman well within striking distance, at 60-59, with 7:24 left.

With 4:15 remaining, Furman regained its early second half lead following a Bothwell layup, which gave Furman a 63-62 lead. The lead marked Furman’s first since the 16:11 mark of the second half, which saw the Paladins clinging to a 44-43 advantage.

From that point it was game-on. Banks answered with a jumper with 3:19 remaining giving the Mocs the 64-63 lead. After the final media timeout of the contest, Bothwell was fouled a good distance from the basket by Banks, which put the Paladins in the one-and-one bonus, as it was the Mocs’ seventh team foul. Bothwell converted both ends, allowing Furman to regain a one-point, 65-64 lead with 3:01 left. 

It appeared Furman was going to then close strong as it had done at home against Chattanooga’s bitter Volunteer State rival Wednesday night, as the Paladins smelled blood in the water. Following a turnover by Mocs guard A.J. Caldwell, Slawson was fouled by Caldwell, putting him at the line for another one-and-one. Slawson connected on both ends just as his classmate Bothwell had moments earlier, allowing the Paladins to assume a bit of a cushion, at 67-64, with 2:26 left.

Chattanooga would respond with perhaps its biggest play of the game when Banks drove down the heart of the lane and converted a layup while also drawing a foul on Foster to get a chance to complete a three-point play with a foul shot. His free throw was nothing but net, tying the game, 67-67, with exactly 2:00 remaining.

Furman again went to its main man in the clutch, which was Slawson, and again, the Mocs had to foul the senior, with Banks picking up his fourth personal foul with 1:35 left. Slawson’s free throws gave the Paladins the lead by two once again, at 69-67, after knocking down both foul shots in his usual composed fashion. 

It was perhaps the Mocs’ next possession that summed up Furman’s afternoon the most. Following a Banks missed three-pointer, the Paladins did close out UTC on the glass, allowing the 6-5 guard Caldwell to nudge his way into position to get the offensive rebound with 1:10 left, and eight seconds later, Chattanooga’s man of the moment so many times this season—Malachi Smith—made the Paladins pay with an easy layup in the middle of the lane to tie the game, 69-69.  

Instead of calling timeout, Furman head coach Bob Richey decided to let the scenario play out on the offensive end, and a perfect screen by Slawson led to a wide-open look for point guard Alex Hunter—a shot Hunter almost always make, however, this time the shot hit back iron and was rebounded by Mocs forward Josh Ayeni with 30 seconds left. 

On the other end and with the game tied, 69-69, the Mocs took a timeout with 25 seconds remaining to set up a play. With 7.6 seconds left, Bothwell went for a steal on a pass thrown to Smith, but made contact with Smith and was called for his second personal foul to put Smith at the line for a one-and-one and a chance for a UTC lead.

Smith knocked down both, making it a 71-69 contest. Following the Bothwell foul, Furman’s Richey called a timeout to set up the play. After the second made foul shot, Furman seemingly had the perfect play set up for a chance at winning the game or tying it.

Marcus Foster’s layup attempt on Furman’s final possession

When Foster  received the pass in the corner from Bothwell, he was open enough to have opted to shoot a corner three, however, instead he chose the much smarter option, which was driving the baseline for what looked like a game-tying lay-up, however, likely expecting to be fouled or perhaps shocked that he was so open, he missed the layup and Ayeni grabbed the rebound as time expired and Chattanooga’s crowd roared as the buzzer sounded at  McKenzie Arena in the wake of a 71-69 win. 

Bob Richey/Furman
UTC head coach Lamont Paris

Up Next:

Furman will host Western Carolina (8-10, 2-3 SoCon) Wednesday night at Timmons Arena. 

Furman holds off talented Bucs to move atop SoCon standings

Furman grad senior guard Conley Garrison/photo courtesy of Furman athletics

When the two teams headed to their respective locker rooms for halftime, Furman trailed the contest 39-35 against a talented East Tennessee State team, and graduate transfer guard Conley Garrison hadn’t scored nor had he even taken a shot.

By the time the buzzer sounded following a 78-69 win against East Tennessee State, the former Division II All-American from Drury University finished the final 20 minutes of basketball against ETSU with his best game as a Paladin.

That’s because Garrison finished off the second half by scoring 23 of Furman’s 43  second-half points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field and was 4-for-6 from three-point land to finish with a team-high 23 points. The 23-point effort by Garrison was the best game has turned in scoring-wise as a Paladin, and his performance showed the Paladins have just one more weapon in the arsenal. 

Furman’s nine-point win over the Bucs saw the Paladins improve to 12-6 overall and 4-1 in league play, while ETSU fell to 10-8 overall and 2-3 in SoCon action. Furman’s win coupled with Chattanooga’s 70-59 loss at Western sees Furman move to the top of the conference in the win column by a half-game, as the Mocs fell to 13-4 overall and 3-1 in league play.

The Paladins improved to 8-9 against the Bucs since they returned to the SoCon in the 2014-15 season, including improving to 8-7 against ETSU in regular-season matchups. The win also saw the Paladins narrow the overall series to 33-31, and the Paladins moved to 7-1 against the Bucs at Timmons Arena since they re-joined the league. 

Additionally, Furman improved to 7-1 at Timmons Arena (8-1 in Greenville) this season, moved to 81-13 at Timmons Arena since the start of the 2015-16 season. Furman also improved to 46-6 against SoCon foes on the home floor in that same span.

Garrison’s outburst in the second half saw the Paladins overturn the four-point halftime deficit and out-score the Bucs 43-30 in the second half to come up with their third-straight Southern Conference win. In addition to his 23-point effort, Garrison also added a pair of steals, dished out a pair of assists, pulled down a team-hight tying seven rebounds and blocked a shot to finish out his night on the stats sheet.

Garrison was joined in double figures by three other Paladins, with senior guard Mike Bothwell adding 15 points, while sophomore guard Marcus Foster added 14 and senior forward Jalen Slawson finished with 10.

Bothwell, a native of Cleveland Heights, OH, posted his 15 points on 5-for-11 shooting from the field, including having gone 2-of-6 from three-point land and 2-for-6 from three-point land. Bothwell also went a perfect 3-for-3 from three-point range.Bothwell added six assists, which matched a season and career-high previously established in a win over Radford earlier this season. Bothwell added four rebounds and a pair of steals. His double-figure scoring effort marked his sixth-straight double-figure scoring effort, as well as his 15th-double-figure scoring effort this season. 

Foster’s performance was also part of a trend for the sophomore guard, who recorded his third-straight game in double figures for the Paladins, as he finished in double digits in wins at UNCG (13 pts) and Saturday vs. Mercer (12 pts). The native of Atlanta, GA, finished the night posting his 14 points on a 5-of-10 shooting effort from the field and was a perfect 3-for-3 from the charity stripe. Foster added four rebounds, dished out a pair of assists and recorded a steal to add to his overall totals. 

Slawson rounded out the double-figure scorers for the Paladins, adding 10 points on a 4-for-7 effort from the field, including a 1-of-2 effort from three-point land. He also added a team-high tying seven rebounds, while also dishing out four assists, recorded one steal and blocked one shot to finish out an overall strong effort. It was Slawson’s 16th double-figure scoring effort in 18 games this season for the Paladins. 

ETSU finished the evening with four in double figures, led by Ty Brewer’s 15 points, while Mohab Yasser added 13 points off the bench to match a career-high. Rounding out the Bucs in double figures were senior guards David Sloan and LeDarrius Brewer, who added 12 and 10 points, respectively for the Blue and Gold.

Ty Brewer’s 15 points came on a 6-of-10 shooting performance from the field, which included a 1-for-5 effort from three-point land. He was also 2-of-2 at the line, while adding a team-high seven rebounds.

The Paladins finished the contest connecting on 45.2% (28-of-62) from the field, which included a 31.4% (11-of-35) shooting effort from three-point range. Furman was also solid from the charity stripe, and are 34-of-42 from the line over the past two games.

ETSU finished the contest connecting on 48.2% (27-of-56) from the field, including shooting 23.8% (5-of-21) from three-point range. The Bucs connected on a solid 76.9% (10-of-13) from the free throw line.

Furman finished the night by holding advantages in points off turnovers (20-6), total rebounds (35-33), total assists (18-14), and second chance points (12-8). ETSU finished the contest holding advantages in points in the paint (38-30), fast-break points (8-5), and bench points (18-8). Furman forced ETSU into 14 turnovers, while committing just 10. 

How It Happened:

For much of the night, it appeared East Tennessee State was going to snap its curse of Timmons Arena being a house of horrors for it since re-joining the SoCon, however, Furman closed out the game with some of its best play of the night to secure the nine-point, 78-69, win, as the Paladins used an 18-5 run over the final 6:23 to close out their fourth Southern Conference win in emphatic fashion, despite what was a gritty, gutsy performance from the upset-minded Bucs. 

It was all part of the design of a brutal non-conference schedule for Furman, which featured so many late-game situations during the 13-game non-league slate, and Furman almost seemed at-ease with the Bucs using a David Sloan step-back triple to tie the basketball game, 69-69, with 2:59 remaining.

It would turn out to be the final points the Bucs would score in the contest, as Furman used a Jalen Slawson jumper, a Conley Garrison corner three, and a combined 4-of-6 performance from the charity stripe from Garrison, Slawson and Marcus Foster to finish out the game strong, out-scoring the Bucs 9-0 over the final 2:59, playing some of its basketball of the night on both ends of the floor. 

The Bucs held the lead for 30:44 of the 40-minute basketball game, which included as much as a 10-point first-half lead with eight minutes remaining in the opening frame, however, it was a clash that would be decided by Furman’s maturity in late-game situations that proved to be the difference in the clash between two of the most successful SoCon basketball programs over the past seven seasons. 

ETSU’s talented senior point guard David Sloan proved to be a thorn in the side of the Paladins much of the night, and it was his fade-a-away jumper off the right side in the lane, which gave the Bucs a 62-57 lead with 7:52 remaining.

That’s when Furman started to show its battle-tested mettle in the contest, using a 12-4 run, which started with a Conley Garrison triple from the left elbow just 19 seconds later, cutting the Bucs’ lead to two, at 62-60.

The 12-4 run would end when a Garrison driving layup put the Paladins up by three, 69-66, with 4:13 remaining bringing the crowd of 1,453 fans at Timmons Arena to its feet, filled with a sense of expectation. Despite Sloan coming down and hitting one of the toughest shots of the night on the ensuing ETSU possession—a step-back triple from the top of the key to tie the game, 69-69, with 2:59 left—the Paladins weren’t going to be denied. 

Slawson’s layup in the paint with 1:48 helped the Paladins regain and the needed momentum to finish out the home win. Furman used a slow build to reach its ultimate crescendo in the contest, which obviously ended with an emphatic statement over the final six-and-a-half minutes. 

In the opening half, it was ETSU that looked like the team more ready for the moment, using a 51.7% shooting effort in the opening half, which included high-flying dunks from Ty Brewer, Jaden Seymour, and LeDarrius Brewer to showcase their vast array of talent and overall athleticism. 

ETSU opened the game with a quick four points on a Sloan layup and an emphatic dunk in transition on a one-handed tomahawk to signal Desmond Oliver’s Bucs had come to play and were more than prepped for the challenge against the Paladins. 

Driving that point home even further was LeDarrius Brewer, as his three-pointer with just under five minutes remaining in the opening half gave the Bucs their largest lead of the night, at 32-22, with 4:54 remaining in the opening frame. 

Furman managed to cut the lead to four by the time the two teams headed to the halftime locker room on what was arguably the biggest shot of the night, as Garrett Hien’s lone three points of the contest came on a three-pointer that conceivably hit every part of the rim before bouncing high off the back rim and then down through the net as the buzzer sounded, taking Furman’s deficit from seven to four, at 35-39, as ETSU headed to the break with the advantage. 

The opening five minutes of the second half would see both Furman and ETSU play well, with the Bucs going ahead by six on a Ty Brewer jumper in the paint only to see Furman tie the game, at 41-41, following threes from Slawson and Garrison. After Ty Brewer hammered home an alley-oop lob from Sloan, the Bucs would re-take the lead, 43-41, with 17:38 remaining.

On the ensuing Furman offensive possession, Slawson turned the ball over on a steal from Sloan, but almost just as quickly, Garrison was waiting to provide a game-changing play. He stole the ball from Sloan at mid-court before racing down to slam home his first dunk of his Furman career, tying the game, 43-43. 

After a Bucs missed shot and then turned the ball over following an offensive board on their ensuing possession, Furman assumed its first lead of the night, at 45-43, following a jumper in the paint from Garrison with 16:20 remaining. 

Over the next five minutes the Paladins would stay within striking distance, but the Bucs had a rebuttal for Furman’s quick start out of the locker room, using a 12-4 run to forge back ahead by six, at 55-49, on a Brewer pump-fake to avoid a Slawson block attempt in transition on an ETSU fast break with 11:40 remaining.

Following a Mike Bothwell layup, which cut the Bucs lead back to four, at 55-51, with just under 10 minutes remaining, ETSU’s Mohab Yasser answered with a three from the left corner to give the visitor’s a six-point advantage once again, at 57-51, with 9:25 left. 

However, Furman and Garrison weren’t going anywhere. Garrison’s three on the other end cut the ETSU lead to three with 9:01 remaining, but Yasser’s layup put the Bucs back ahead five, at 59-54, with 8:26 left.

After a Garrison three-point play the old-fashioned way following a foul by ETSU’s Vonnie Patterson got the Paladins back to within a bucket with 8:15 to play, it would be Sloan’s triple that put the Bucs back up five, at 62-57, with 7:52 remaining.

The Paladins continued the charge, however, and it would be another Garrison triple that would bring the Paladins back to within two with 7:33 remaining. Ty Brewer’s jumper on the other end would increase ETSU’s lead back to four, at 64-60, with 6:23 left. 

Alex Hunter’s three with 6:11 brought Furman’s deficit back to one. A Sloan layup gave the Bucs a 66-63 lead with 5:20 left, and that would prove to be the Bucs’ final lead of the contest. 

A Marcus Foster layup got the Paladins back to within one, and then after a Furman defensive stop, a pair of Foster free throws helped the Paladins regain the lead, at 67-66, with 5:20 remaining. A Sloan missed layup saw the Paladins increase their lead to three following a Garrison layup in the paint, making it a 69-66 lead with 4:13 left.

Sloan’s step-back triple tied the game, 69-69, with 2:59 remaining, however, it would be the Bucs final points of the night.

Postgame Press Conference:

Furman head coach Bob Richey
Furman sophomore guard Marcus Foster and graduate transfer guard Conley Garrison

Up Next:

Furman returns to action Saturday afternoon before a national television audience, taking on the Chattanooga Mocs at McKenzie Arena with first-place in the league standings on the line. Tip-off is slated for 3 p.m., and the game will be televised by CBS Sports Network.

SoCon Hoops 2021-22: Two games highlight Monday night’s slate

Wofford and UNCG highlight Monday’s action/photo courtesy of Khandejeh Nikouyeh, Greensboro News & Record

Western Carolina (7-8, 1-1 SoCon) at East Tennessee State (9-7, 1-2 SoCon), 7 p.m.

—East Tennessee State and Western Carolina both have short turnarounds following games this past Saturday. The game is a makeup game from last week after the Western Carolina program had been struck by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Catamounts and Bucs will be meeting for the 87th time on Monday night, with the Bucs having won 30 of the past 31 games between the two, including having claimed 13-straight wins in the series. 

The Bucs will be looking to rebound from a 68-57 setback to Wofford over the weekend, while Western Carolina was blown out, 85-60, last time it took the floor for a road game at Samford. The Catamounts struggled shooting the basketball in the road loss last time out, connecting on just 33.9% of its shots for the game. In ETSU’s loss to the Terriers last time out, the Bucs were out-rebounded 36-27, with 11 of those for the Terriers being offensive rebounds, which led directly to 21 second-chance points for the Terriers. It highlighted just how much the Bucs continue to miss a guy like Silas Adheke, who left the program just prior to conference play. 

The good news for Bucs fans is that rarely do they lose back-to-back home games, as ETSU has been nearly unbeatable at Freedom Hall since the start of the 2015-16 campaign, having posted an 82-18 record at Freedom Hall during that span. The matchup will see two of the league’s new head coaches face off against each other, with ETSU’s Desmond Oliver in his first season at the helm of the Bucs program, while Justin Gray is in his first season as the head coach of the Catamounts’ basketball program.

The last time the Bucs and Catamounts met on the college basketball hardwood was back on Jan. 21, 2021, with the Bucs downing the Catamounts 59-48 in Cullowhee. In that contest, the Bucs had trouble shooting the basketball in the opening half in Cullowhee last season, connecting on just 38.5% of its shots in the opening half of play, however, defensively, the Bucs were on point, limiting Western Carolina to just 33.3% shooting from the field, allowing ETSU to go to the break trailing by just a single point, 28-27.

In the second half of that contest, the Catamounts pushed their lead to as many as five points early in the second half, taking a 36-31, lead before ETSU took control of the contest by scoring 10 of the game’s next 12 points to take the lead, 41-38. Although the Catamounts would eventually tie the game, 45-45, moments later, the Bucs would control the game with their defense for the remainder of the contest to come away with the 11-point road win.

One of the player’s that shined in that last meeting between the Bucs and Catamounts was LeDarrius Brewer (12.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG) and he comes into Monday night’s contest continuing to be an all-conference caliber player, as well as one of the Bucs top scorers. He’ll be a tough matchup, as will the Bucs’ other two double-figure scoring guards, in David Sloan (12.9 PPG, 4.1 APG, 3.0 RPG) and Jordan King (11.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.4 APG), who are both not shy about shooting basketball from beyond the arc. In fact, as a team this season, the Bucs rank eighth overall in the SoCon in three-point field goal percentage, connecting on 34.0% of their shots from three-point range so far this season, with the Bucs having knocked down 142-of-418 from long-range through 16 games this season.

Western Carolina counters the Bucs with what is nearly a completely different roster from the one that faced off against the Bucs last season, with one of the few holdovers being junior wing Tyler Harris (6.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG). The Catamounts have relied for scoring on grad transfer guard Nicholas Robinson (15.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG).  Robinson leads a WCU team that comes in averaging 76.8 PPG as a team, ranking fifth overall in the SoCon in scoring offense. 

The Catamounts also shoot a lot of threes, ranking fifth overall in the league in three-point field goal percentage, connecting on 35.6% (174-of-489) from downtown this season. One of the matchups that will be interesting to watch will be how ETSU goes about guarding WCU’s 6-10 center and transfer from Kansas State, in Joe Petrakis (7.7 PPG, 3.1 RPG),  given ETSU’s depth issues in the paint due to the loss of Adheke.

Final Score Prediction: ETSU 79, Western Carolina 70

Wofford (9-6, 1-2 SoCon) at UNC Greensboro (9-5, 1-1 SoCon), 6 p.m. EST

The other makeup game in league play on Monday night is the one between Wofford and UNC Greensboro, which was originally scheduled for last week until positive COVID-19 tests within the UNCG program forced a pause. The Terriers and Spartans will be meeting for the 50th time on the college hoops hardwood, with Wofford holding the 30-19 all-time series edge. 

The two teams split the two meetings last season, with UNCG winning an 85-74 contest at Wofford, while the Terriers turned around three days later to capture a 48-45 win in the Greensboro Coliseum. In that win in Greensboro last season, the Terriers used an outstanding defensive effort that limited the Spartans to just 34.5% shooting from the field for the game, and were able to overcome what was a tough night shooting the basketball themselves, as the Terriers were only able to connect on 29.6% from the field. Storm Murphy led the Terriers with 18 points, while then freshman guard Max Klesmit (15.7 PPG, 2.5 RPG) chipped in with 10. 

Both the Terriers and Spartans are coming off impressive road wins from this past Saturday, as Wofford picked up a 68-57 road win at East Tennessee State, while UNCG got its first Southern Conference win on the road, with a 72-56 win at VMI, as the Spartans did a masterful job on the defensive end in limiting the Keydets shooting proficiency from beyond the arc. 

Since Wofford’s all-conference post player went down with an apparent season-ending injury during non-conference play, Terriers head coach Jay McAuley has had to find others to step up in his absence in the paint, and he’s gotten a big season from B.J. Mack so far, and the Terriers’ are also starting to get strong play out of Sam Godwin (7.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG) as of late. Godwin was big in the win at UNCG last season, as he posted 10 points and nine rebounds, which just missed his first-career double-double for the Terriers. 

Along with Klesmit in the backcourt, the Terriers look to veterans Ryan Larson  (9.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 63 assists) and Isaiah Bigelow  (9.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG). Bigelow is starting to step up and become more of a consistent scorer for the Terriers. Wofford has struggled defensively this season, ranking last of 10 teams in the SoCon in field goal percentage defense (45.9%), and that’s probably good news for first-year UNCG head coach Mike Jones, who has seen team struggle to shoot the basketball the entire season, as the Spartans rank eighth out of 10 teams in team field goal percentage (39.1%) so far in the 2021-22 season. 

The Spartans have relied mostly on Cal State Bakersfield transfer De’Monte Buckingham (13.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG). Buckingham’s 7.9 RPG are the best among any guard in the SoCon, and helps bolster UNCG’s league-leading +10.7 rebounding margin so far this season. Kaleb Hunter (8.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG) was especially key for the Spartans last time out, as the veteran wing came off the bench to score 14 points last time out against VMI. 

The Spartans can also rely upon the brother tandem of Kobe Langley (7.2 PPG, 2.5 RPG) and Keyshaun Langley (3.8 PPG, 0.8 RPG), who both have plenty of quickness to go around. They will both be tough assignments for the Terrier guards to have to deal with this evening. The Spartans defend as well as any team the Terriers will face in league play, holding foes to just 63.1 PPG and are limiting foes to just 39.1% per game. Both of those totals rank second-best in the SoCon.

Final Score Prediction: Wofford 71, UNCG 68

SoCon Hoops 2021-22: Jan. 8 roundup and power rankings

David Jean-Baptiste/photo courtesy of UTC athletics

The second full slate of Southern Conference basketball is in the books, and while the opening Wednesday night of games with a full schedule around the league saw most of them close, hotly-contested games, the second full slate of basketball games saw double-digit margin outcomes in all of the league battles. Here’s a quick recap of each. 

UNCG 72, VMI 56

UNCG evened its Southern Conference record at 1-1, as the Spartans used a strong defense and went on the road to capture a 72-56 win over the VMI Keydets Saturday afternoon at Cameron Hall. The win saw the Spartans improve to 9-5 overall and 1-1 in league action, while VMI for the second-straight game. It was the beginning of a tough stretch for UNCG that will feature four games in the next seven days. VMI fell to 9-7 overall and 2-2 in league play. 

The Spartans rode the strong performance of Kobe Langley, who posted a team-high 18 points, which included a career-best four three-pointers and that accounted for 12 of those points. He also posted a career-best six rebounds, three steals and dished out three assists. Kaleb Hunter came off the bench to add 15 points, and leading scorer De’Monte Buckingham just missed a double-double with 12 points and nine boards. Bas Leyte rounded out the double-figure scorers with 11 points and five rebounds. 

The Spartans held a double-digit lead for most of the second half, and went to the locker room for the halftime intermission with a 36-25 advantage. The Keydets would seemingly get back into the game with mini run to cut UNCG’s lead to seven (49-42) following a Kamdyn Curfman three-pointer with 11:16 remaining. However, from there, the Spartans resumed business as usual by getting a 9-0 run to stretch the lead back out to 16, at 58-42, following a Bas Leyte layup to quell any thoughts of a VMI comeback on its home floor. The Keydets could never get within double digits the remainder of the contest.

VMI finished with two players in double figures, as Jake Stephens and Kamdyn Curfman accounted for 48 of the team’s 52 points in the game, with Stephens adding his sixth 20-point scoring effort of the season, finishing with 22, while Curfman added 16.Curfman completed a double-double effort for VMI by also adding 10 rebounds. 

The Spartans would end up holding the Keydets to a meager 34.6% (18-of-52) shooting from the field, including just 27.8% (10-of-36) from three-point range. UNCG returns to action Monday night, hosting Wofford at the Greensboro Coliseum in a tip-off set for 7 p.m. The Keydets return to action Thursday, traveling to meet Mercer in Macon.

Wofford 68, East Tennessee State 57

Wofford captured its first Southern Conference win of the season, as the Terriers went on the road to capture what was a 68-57 win over East Tennessee State at Freedom Hall. The win saw the Terriers improve their record to 9-6 overall and 1-2 in league action, while ETSU fell to 9-7 overall and 1-2 in league action.

B.J. Mack put in a strong afternoon of work, posting 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field, which included a 2-for-2 effort from three-point range. Also adding double-figure scoring efforts for the Terriers in the contest were Max.Klesmit and Isaiah Bigelow, who added 12 points apiece to round out the double-figure scorers for the Terriers. 

David Sloan and LeDarrius Brewer were the lone two Bucs to finish in double figures in the contest, with Sloan adding 24 points and Brewer finishing with 18. Sloan connected on 10-of-14 shooting from the field, including 4-of-7 from three-point range.

It marked Mack’s third 20-point scoring effort of the season, and one of the keys to the road win for Wofford was winning the battle of the boards, out-rebounding the Bucs, 36-27, using 11 offensive rebounds to score 21 points. 

The Terriers went to the break with a narrow 32-29 lead. Morgan Safford helped the Terriers open the second half strong with a three, giving the Terriers a six-point, 35-29, lead. However,  back-to-back triples by LeDarrius Brewer made it seem like a flashback to Wofford’s 71-49  loss in Johnson City last season, in a game which saw LeDarrius Brewer score a career-high 30 points. Brewer’s back-to-back triples early in the second half tied the contest, 35-35. 

The game would go back-and-forth of the next few minutes, with Ryan Larson and Isaiah Bigelow trading threes with ETSU’s Sloan to tie the game, 41-41. A BJ Mack jumper gave the Terriers a 43-41 lead heading into the first media timeout of the second half. 

After the first media of the second half, the Terriers would take complete control of the basketball game, as Mack’s jumper prior to the first media timeout would commence a 14-3 run by the Terriers, with Safford’s triple from the right corner giving Wofford its first double-digit lead of the day, at 55-44, with 8:55 remaining. The Terriers would push that lead to as much as 14, at 64-50, following a Mack turnaround jumper in the lane with 3:32 left. 

Wofford returns to the floor Monday night when it travels to UNC Greensboro to meet defending SoCon champion at the Greensboro Coliseum for a 7 p.m. contest. ETSU jumps back into league action, hosting Western Carolina at Freedom Hall in a 7 p.m. contest. 

Chattanooga 85, The Citadel 67

The Chattanooga Mocs remained unbeaten in Southern Conference play, using a strong defensive effort to dispatch The Citadel, 85-67, in a key league contest Saturday afternoon at McKenzie Arena.

With the win, the Mocs improved to 13-3 overall and 3-0 in league play, while The Citadel fell to 6-7 overall and 0-2 in league play.

Highlighting that outstanding effort on the defensive end of the floor by the Mocs was the fact that UTC was able to force the Bulldogs into 18 turnovers, while also holding preseason SoCon Player of the Year Hayden Brown without a field goal in the win. Brown had a 37-point outburst against the Bulldogs last season. Brown was 0-for-4 from the field Saturday, finishing with just four points. Brown finished leading The Citadel on the boards with eight points.

The Mocs defense limited The Citadel to just 44.4% (24-of-54) from the field. The Bulldogs did manage connect on 40.7% (11-of-27) from three-point land in the contest. Stephen Clark led three Bulldogs in double figures, with 22 points, while freshman guard Jason Roche added 16 and Rudy Fitzgibbons Jr. added 13. 

Chattanooga finished being led by a 10th-straight 20-point scoring effort from Malachi Smith, as he posted 27 points on a 10-of-20 shooting performance, including a 4-for-8 effort from three-point range. David Jean-Baptiste added 16 points, while Silvio DeSousa made a strong return to the lineup, with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Senior guard A.J. Caldwell rounded out the Mocs players in double figures, adding 11 points.

David Jean-Baptiste scored seven of the Mocs’ first 11 points of the contest, staking the Mocs to an early 11-8 lead and surpassed the 1,500-point scoring milestone for his career in the process, as he currently ranks fifth on the school’s all-time list. 

Following a Citadel basket coming out of the first media timeout of the game, the Mocs were able to push the lead to seven on back-to-back triples from Grant Ledford and Malachi Smith, making it a 17-10 UTC lead. The Mocs led 20-13 following an Avery Diggs foul shot when the Bulldogs went on a mini 6-0 run to cut the Mocs lead to just one, at 20-19, with a Jason Roche triple with 8:14 remaining in the half. 

From that point, the Mocs would slowly begin to take control of the basketball game, using an 8-0 run to go ahead by nine points. The run started with started by a Smith three-pointer with 7:54 remaining in the half, giving the Mocs a four-point edge, at 23-19.  Another three by Caldwell and a jumper by Jean-Baptiste increased Chattanooga’s lead to 28-19 with 5:54 left in the opening half. The Citadel stayed within striking distance at the half, going into the locker room trailing by only five, at 36-31, as the Bulldogs closed the half with a 12-8 spurt to stay in the game. 

The Mocs took a five-point lead at 38-33 early in the second half when Jean-Baptiste found Silvio De Sousa with a perfect alley-oop feed for the flush.  After the Bulldogs came up empty, a Smith three increased UTC’s early second half lead to eight. De Sousa also continued his strong play on the defensive end of the floor, swatting away a pair of Bulldogs shots, with one of those leading to a Caldwell three and a double-digit, 46-36, Mocs lead.

The Mocs would continue to build on the lead as the second half progressed, first increasing the advantage to 14, at 65-51 with 9:40 remaining following a three-point play the old-fashioned way. Eight minutes later, the Mocs would build their lead to as much as 20 (82-62) following two more Smith foul shots. The Bulldogs cut it to 17 with a Roche triple with 43 seconds remaining before a Jean-Baptiste’s three pushed the Mocs lead back to 20, at 85-65, with 12 seconds remaining. Jackson Price’s layup with three seconds left for The Citadel set the final margin at 18.

The Bulldogs return to action Thursday night when they will host UNC Greensboro. UTC will be on the road Wednesday night to face Western Carolina in a 7 p.m. tip-off slated at the Ramsey Center.

Samford 85, Western Carolina 60

Samford picked up its first Southern Conference win of the season in resounding fashion, and relished playing on the home hardwood of the Pete Hanna Center for the first time in three weeks, as the Bulldogs made rather easy work of the Catamounts, taking an 85-60 win Saturday afternoon. 

The win saw the Bulldogs improve to 11-4 overall and 1-2 in SoCon play, while Western Carolina dropped to 7-8 overall and 1-1 in league play.

For the second-straight game, Jermaine Marshall led the Bulldogs with a double-double, posting his seventh of the season, posting 14 points and 11 rebounds, as he was one of three Bulldogs in double figures in the win. Talented freshman wing Wesley Cardet Jr, led Samford with 18 points, while Ques Glover, who entered the contest as the league’s second-leading scorer, added 16 points. Cardet was 7-for-11 from the field and 1-of-2 from the charity stripe. He also connected on 3-of-4 from the charity stripe. Cardet Jr. rounded out his stats sheet by dishing out a pair of assists, grabbing a pair of rebounds and added a steal and a block on the defensive end. 

Western Carolina had just two players finish the day in double figures, with Nick Robinson’s 15 points pacing the Catamounts, while Joe Petrakis adding 11. 

Like Chattanooga, Samford was able to get it done on the defensive end of the floor, holding the Catamounts to just 33.9% (20-of-59) shooting from the field in the game, which included just a 31.0% (9-of-29) effort from three-point land. 

The Catamounts seemingly started the day well, getting off to a 6-2 lead following a three-pointer by Petrakis just 90 seconds into the game. With the game tied, 11-11, the Bulldogs went on a 10-0 run to take a 21-11 lead with just under 12 minutes remaining in the half on a three-pointer by Cooper Kaifes. The Bulldogs would increase their lead to 13 in the opening half of play, as Jaden Campbell’s layup gave the Bulldogs a 33-20 lead with 6:22 left in the half. The Bulldogs would eventually take a 16-point, 51-35, lead into the halftime locker room.

Early in the second half, the Bulldogs pushed their lead to 20 points for the first time all day when a pair of Marshall foul shots allowed the Bulldogs to take a 62-40 lead with 13:18 left. The Catamounts would make a little run, cutting the Samford lead to 14 following a 9-1 run, which was capped by a Petrakis triple with 11:43 remaining. The Bulldogs scored four quick points to push the lead back to 18, and were never really threatened again, pushing the lead to as much as 26 points, at 83-57, down the stretch. 

SoCon Power Poll

  1. Chattanooga (13-3, 3-0 SoCon)—Mocs are living up to preseason expectations so far, and have a big matchup against Furman looming next Saturday.
  2. Furman (11-6, 3-1 SoCon)—Furman has responded with two big wins after a bit of a hiccup against VMI in its second SoCon game last week on New Year’s Day
  3. Wofford (9-6, 1-2 SoCon)—It was a rough start to  SoCon play for the Terriers, getting off to an 0-2 start in league play for Terriers for the first time since the 2012-13 season, but rebounded with a nice win at ETSU on Saturday.
  4. UNCG (9-5, 1-1 SoCon)—The Spartans may have lost the two Millers, but they haven’t forgotten how to play defense and that will keep them in most all league games. 
  5. Samford (11-4, 1-2 SoCon)—The Bulldogs are a tough out with Ques Glover in the fold. 
  6. ETSU (9-7, 1-2 SoCon)—ETSU really misses Silas Adheke, and must find an inside presence in order to be a factor in the title race. 
  7. VMI (9-7, 2-2 SoCon)—The Keydets have lost back-to-back games after posting a pair of impressive wins over two of the SoCon’s top three, in Furman and Wofford on the road.
  8. Mercer (8-7, 1-1 SoCon)—I think as the season progresses, the Bears will miss point guard Neftali Alvarez more and more. If he makes it back by tournament time, watch out for the Bears. 
  9. The Citadel (7-8, 0-2 SoCon)—Duggar Baucom’s Bulldogs have had a rough start to SoCon play, but could have easily won in Cullowhee.
  10. 10. Western Carolina (7-8, 1-1 SoCon)—It’s going to be an up-and-down ride for Justin Gray in his first year in Cullowhee. 

Overall and SoCon Records since the start of the 2015-16 season

  1. UNCG 148-68, 81-29
  2. ETSU 152-62, 80-28
  3. Furman 142-68, 79-30
  4. Wofford 125-83, 71-39
  5. Chattanooga 142-68, 79-30

‘Dins defend ‘the well’ and expel Mercer

Mike Bothwell led Furman with 17 points in win over Mercer

Furman 81, Mercer 66

Furman used a stellar defensive effort, and when Mercer made attempted runs in the second half, knocked down timely shots, as the Paladins held on for an 81-66 Southern Conference win over the Bears Saturday evening in the first of three games to be played at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena.

With the win, Furman improved to 11-6 overall and 3-1 in Southern Conference play, while Mercer fell to 8-7 overall and 1-1 in league action. For the Paladins, it marked the 13th-straight win in the series for the Paladins against the Bears, and it was also milestone win No. 100 in what has been quite a week for the 39-year old head coach, which included the birth of his third child earlier this week. The win also saw the Paladins improve to 3-1 since the Weekends at the Well idea was conceived back in the 2019-20 season. Furman will play its next game at its downtown home on Feb. 5 when the Paladins host defending SoCon champion UNC Greensboro. 

There’s no time to turn back now and rest on a pair of solid SoCon victories over quality foes that represented each half of last year’s championship game, however, as the Paladins have the SoCon’s two most accomplished basketball programs ahead directly on the horizon, with the Paladins hosting East Tennessee State on Wednesday night before traveling to meet preseason Southern Conference favorite Chattanooga in another nationally-televised contest next Saturday, as a part of the SoCon’s television package with CBS Sports Network. 

Furman’s win on Saturday featured a little bit of everything, with the Paladins using a good shooting performance for the first 17 minutes of the contest, which was combined with maybe its most complete defensive effort for an entire half, allowing Furman to head to the halftime locker room with a 17-point, 44-27 lead.  

The second half saw the Bears fall behind by as many as 20 in the early going (50-30), but never would completely go away, cutting the Paladin lead to just nine (70-61) with 2:48 left, however, could get no closer with the Paladins closing out the game with five-straight points on a pair of foul shots from Jalen Slawson and Mike Bothwell’s lone made three-pointer of the contest to increase their lead back to 14 points with 1:34 remaining. 

For the second-straight game, the Paladins were led in scoring by Bothwell, who finished the night with 17 points on  6-of-14 shooting from the field, including 1-of-6 from three-point range and was a perfect 4-for-4 from the line. The senior guard also dished out five assists, recorded two blocks and added one steal to the Paladin cause. 

Bothwell was one of four Paladins in double figures in the contest,  with Joe Anderson adding his third new career-high of the season, adding 15 points, while Slawson and Marcus Foster added 12 points apiece to round out the Paladins in double figures in the contest. Anderson added all of his 15 points on a career-high five three-pointers, as he knocked down five of six shots from three-point range. The sophomore guard from Maryville, Tenn., also added four rebounds, a steal and an assist.

Slawson, who went just 2-of-9 from the field on the evening, did most all of his offensive damage from the charity stripe. He connected on all eight of his free throw attempts, and finished off a relentless night on the defensive end, in which he added three blocks and three steals. The senior from Summerville, S.C., also dished out a couple of assists. 

Senior point guard Alex Hunter finished on the verge of double figures, adding nine points on a 3-for-7 effort from three-point range, and finished 3-for-9 overall from the field. Hunter added a team-high tying five assists, four rebounds, and added two steals. 

The Bears finished with with four in double figures, led by 14 points from Kamar Robertson, while Jalen Johnson added 13 and Felipe Haase and Shawn Walker, Jr. added 11 and 10 points, respectively, to round out the double-figure scorers. 

Robertson finished the contest by connecting on 4-of-10 shots from the field, including going 1-for-2 from three-point range. He was a perfect 5-for-5 from the charity stripe and added a pair of rebounds, two assists and a steal to his overall box score. 

Highlighting the overall team win for the Paladins was their play on the defensive end of the floor, holding the Bears to just 41.0% (25-of-61) shooting from the field for the game, while holding a 29-21 advantage on the glass. Furman was especially impressive from the charity stripe, finishing by connecting on 23-of-26 shots from the charity stripe.  

Furman, meanwhile, shot the ball at a 42.9% (24-of-56) clip for the game after blistering the nets at a 53.3% (16-of-30) conversion rate in the opening half of play. But despite shooting 30.7 (8-of-26) in the second half, the Paladins did enough on the defensive end and at the free throw line to secure their third Southern Conference win of the season. The Paladins also connected on 38.5% (10-of-26) from three-point range in the win. 

In addition to being a +8 on the backboards, Furman also ended the night holding advantages in fast-break points (10-8) and total assists (18-15). Both teams had 28 points in the paint, and 11 second-chance points. The Bears held slight advantages in points off turnovers (14-11) and bench points (26-24). 

How It Happened:

Two years ago, the “Weekends at the Well” idea by Furman’s Director of Athletics Jason Donnelly looked like a brilliant vision to capitalize on the energy and success Paladin basketball had created in Greenville, and returning to Furman’s downtown roots seemed only natural. It was a grand success, with Furman averaging well over 5,000 fans for three games, going 2-1 in those games against quality competition, taking on Winthrop in a non-conference game, which was followed by a January SoCon tilt against UNC Greensboro and a late February clash with I-85 rival Wofford.

Just as it looked the project was going to continue forward for the 2020-21 season with more momentum than ever, the COVID-19 pandemic put a serious damper on those plans, limiting crowd capacity for nearly every venue around the country, and thus, the plans to return downtown were put on hiatus for at least one season. 

But despite the nation dealing with a second round of COVID, it hasn’t slowed the enthusiasm of crowds in college sports this season, and while it has caused cancellations and postponements to games throughout the nation, it hasn’t limited crowd capacity. With that in mind, Furman moved fearlessly forward for a second season taking advantage of the experiment and a talented Paladin team to showcase, as Furman played Mercer in the first of three appearances downtown at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in the 2021-22 season. 

Furman and Mercer battled early, with physical play on both ends, however, it was the Paladins that looked more interested in mixing things up defensively in the early going, with Jalen Slawson being the catalyst, with a pair of blocks prior to the first media timeout, as the two teams headed to their respective head coaches with the Paladins holding a narrow 10-7 lead.

After the opening media timeout, the Paladins started to show why they had a team worthy of such a outstanding venue and a team deserving of larger crowds against what is always a solid SoCon contender, in Mercer. In fact, after facing Southern Conference Tournament champion and 2021 NCAA Tournament representative UNCG Wednesday night, getting a 58-54 win on the road, it was only fitting that the Paladins would return home to face a Mercer team that contested the Spartans in that SoCon Tournament title game in Asheville last March before eventually losing a hard-fought 69-61 contest to the Spartans. 

Furman turned what had been three-point advantage at the first media timeout into 21-12 lead following a Tyrese Hughey layup with just under 11 minutes remaining in the opening half. The Paladins would assume their first double-double digit lead of the evening on back-to-back layups Garrett Hien, who finished with seven points, as his second layup with off a feed from Alex Hunter gave the Paladins a comfortable 26-15 lead with 8:50 to play in the opening half. 

With six minutes remaining in the half, a Felipe Haase jumper from the right side cut Furman’s lead back to nine for the fourth time in a short span, at 30-21, before Joe Anderson added his second three-pointer of the opening half to give Furman a double-digit lead once again, at 33-21. That’s where the lead would remain for the remainder of the half. Anderson’s three would be part of a quick 9-0 spurt, which eventually saw the Paladins increase their lead to 18 after a Conley Garrison layup in the paint with 3:37 remaining in the half to make it a 39-21 contest.  

The basket by Garrison would see Furman struggle from the field for much of the remainder of the half, with only two Mike Bothwell free throws accounting Furman’s lone points in a 3:26 stretch until Hunter ended the drought with a deep three-pointer from the right elbow off an inbounds pass, which gave Furman its final points of the half, allowing the Paladins to take a 44-27 lead into the halftime locker room. 

In the second half, Furman looked as though it was going to put the game way early, as the Paladins assumed a 20-point advantage, at 50-30, following a pair of free throws and layup from Marcus Foster, and a pair of free throws by Slawson with 18:10 to play in the game to assume the comfortable 20-point edge. 

The lead almost seemed too comfortable, however, as Mercer began to chip away at the Furman lead and get back into the contest, using a 20-10 run to cut Furman’s lead back to 10 on a three-point play the old-fashioned way by Kamar Robertson, as the Bears trailed just 60-50 with 9:30 remaining. Following a pair of Bothwell free throws, which got Furman’s lead back to 12  with a little over nine minutes left, Mercer’s Shawn Walker Jr. added a jumper in the lane to get Mercer back to within 10, at 62-52, with 8:44 remaining.

Both teams would fail to score over the next 2:31, and one of the big reasons the Paladins were able to maintain a hold on the game was the play of freshman forward Tyrese Hughey, who to the untrained eye of an astute basketball fan, might have missed his importance during this particular juncture of the basketball game. After blocking a Robertson layup that could have gotten the Bears to within eight points on one end of the floor with just under seven minutes remaining, Hughey would, in turn, set the stage for one of the biggest shots of the night on the other end of the floor. 

Following a driving layup by Hunter, which missed off the front of the rim, Hughey used his athleticism and length to rise high off the floor and attempt a dunk follow, however, the shot was missed but his hustle in crashing the boards caused Robertson to commit the foul with 6:27 left. That allowed the Paladins to free up Anderson for another big three off the inbounds play following a 30-second timeout by the Paladins, as his top of the key triple gave the Paladins a 65-52 lead with 6:13 remaining. However, the shot felt like a huge momentum swing in the game, with Mercer going from a chance to be down only eight, to eventually seeing Furman go back up by 13. 

The Bears would continue to battle, however, taking on the Big Ten mentality of toughness from their coach—Greg Gary—which was no doubt instilled in him as a young coach serving on Matt Painter’s highly successful staff at Purdue for eight seasons prior to his arrival in Macon in the spring of 2019. Another Anderson three capped what had been a 10-4 run by the Paladins after Mercer had cut the Furman lead to 10, giving the home team a 70-54 lead with exactly five minutes remaining.

A 7-0 run by the Bears, which included a Jalen Johnson three-pointer, and a layup and dunk by Victor Baffuto suddenly had the visiting team from middle Georgia within single digits for the first time since the score was 30-21 with six minutes left in the opening half, as Baffuto’s second basket in the paint made it a 70-61 game with 2:48 remaining. That would be as close as Gary’s Bears would get, however, as the Paladins pushed the lead back to 14 on two Slawson foul shots and a three-pointer from Bothwell with 1:34 remaining following one of Furman’s 12 offensive rebounds in the contest, as the Paladins pushed the lead back to 14, at 75-61. 

Another Johnson three-pointer got the Bears to within 11 with 1:15 left, but the Bears were forced to put the Paladins at the line the rest of the way and had to hope they would do something, which they hadn’t done all that often all afternoon. In fact, Furman would make six of its final eight foul shots to close out the 15-point win, and up until Hunter’s final two unsuccessful charity shots with 28 seconds left, the Paladins had made 23 of their 24 shot attempts from the free throw line in the contest. 

Post-Game Press Conference:

Head coach Bob Richey talks about win No. 100
Mike Bothwell (left) and Joe Anderson (right)

Up Next: 

Furman returns to Timmons Arena Wednesday night to do battle with the East Tennessee State Buccaneers in a matchup slated for 7 p.m. The Bucs, who under the direction of first-year head coach Desmond Oliver, fell to 9-7 overall and 1-2 in league action after a 68-57 loss to Wofford Saturday at Freedom Hall in Johnson City. The Paladins and Bucs split the meetings last season. 

SoCon Hoops Notebook: A look back at Wednesday night and previewing Saturday’s action

ETSU guard David Sloan/photo courtesy of ETSU athletics

It was the opening night of Southern Conference basketball, which has had already had some games to have to be postponed and rescheduled around the league as a result of the COVID-19 Omicron variant of the virus.

However, if the competitiveness from the first full slate of games is any indication as to how the rest of the year will go in the league, then we are in for a real treat going forward.

Mercer 83, Samford 80

Mercer was one of those teams in the SoCon still waiting to play its opening game of the Southern Conference slate. The Bulldogs opened league play without leading scorer Ques Glover at Furman, and paid for it in an 81-49 setback in Greenville.

With Glover back in the fold for the Bulldogs, they would play much better on the road in their second game of the New Year, however, the Bulldogs still couldn’t recapture the success of a 10-win non-conference slate, which included wins over Oregon State and Ole Miss, as the Bears posted an 83-80 win at Hawkins Arena on Faith and Family night.

The win saw the Bears improve to 8-6 overall and 1-0 in league action, while Samford fell to 10-4 overall and 0-2 in league play.

Between the Bulldogs and Bears, a total of five players scored 20 or more points in the game, with three accomplishing the feat for the visitor’s, while two did so for Mercer.

Jermaine Marshall (24 pts, 13 rebs), Ques Glover (23 pts), and Jaden Campbell were the lone three Samford Bulldogs in double figures in the game, while Mercer’s two with 20 or more points–Felipe Haase (24 pts) and Shannon Grant (23 pts)–were among four players in double digits.

The Bears and Bulldogs last faced each other last March in the second game of the opening day of the tournament in Asheville, and in that game, it was all Bears, as Mercer was able to take an 87-59 win in that particular contest. However, the two regular-season contests last season–both won by Mercer–both went to overtime.

When Mercer took a double-digit lead in the second half, it appeared Wednesday night’s mid-week clash might be going to follow the path of that opening round SoCon Tournament game last season, however, to its credit, Samford battled back.

The Bulldogs trailed 67-55 in the second half following a layup by Kamar Robertson with 6:37 remaining. However, over the next six minutes, Samford would continue to chip away at the Bears lead, using a 23-12 run to get within a point on a Glover foul shot, at 79-78, with just five seconds remaining.

After missing the second foul shot, the Bulldogs were forced to foul immediately, sending Haase to the line for a pair of foul shots. He knocked them both down to give Mercer the 81-78 lead.

Robertson then fouled Glover to prevent Samford from shooting a three, and Glover knocked down both free throws to get the Bears back to within a point, at 81-80, with two seconds remaining. Haase was with two seconds left, and he went to the line and knocked down both offerings to give Mercer a three-point edge once again.

The Bulldogs would get one final look at a three, but Cooper Kaifes’ effort was no good, and Mercer held on for SoCon victory No. 1 and victory No. 1 of 2022.

Mercer heads to Furman to play at Bon Secours Wellness Arena for a 4 p.m. tip-off Saturday in downtown Greenville, while Samford returns home to host Western Carolina in a 2 p.m. clash.

ETSU 80, VMI 79

East Tennessee was able to hold off a furious rally from VMI to get an 80-79 win over the Keydets in its SoCon home opener Wednesday night at Freedom Hall.

The win saw the Bucs improve their overall record to 9-6 overall and 1-1 in league play, while VMI fell to 9-6 overall and 2-1 in league play. The win marked ETSU’s 13th-straight win the series against the Keydets.

The two teams combined to shoot 80 threes in the contest, with the Bucs ending up making one more three, as ETSU knocked down a baker’s dozen, while VMI, which entered as one of the top perimeter shooting team’s in college basketball, finished the night with 12. The Keydets entered the contest averaging 12.8 made threes-per-game.

It did’t appear the game was going to be close at all in the opening half, and after VMI scored the five three points of the night, the Bucs would score 17 of the next 20 to take command of the game. The Keydets eventually found themselves down by 17 points (47-30) after connecting on just 4-of-23 long-range efforts in the opening 20 minutes.

For the first eight-and-a-half minutes of the second half, the Bucs maintained a firm grip on the game, leading by double-digits for most of that juncture. The Bucs were leading 61-50 only to see VMI to put together a run, scoring 13 of the next 15 points in the contest to tie the game, 63-63, with just under eight-and-a-half minutes remaining.

With just over eight minutes remaining, the Bucs got maybe their biggest shot of the night in response, as point guard David Sloan found Mohab Yasser on the other end for a three-pointer to give the Bucs the lead once again, at 66-63.

ETSU, though in a fight for the rest of the evening, never trailed the remainder of the contest. A Jordan King three-pointer with 3:20 remaining would give the Bucs a little breathing room, stretching their lead back to seven (76-69).

The Keydets had their chances to take the lead down the stretch, however, after cutting the Bucs lead to two, had the ball twice with an opportunity to do such,. However, VMI missed both of its three-point attempts, which would have been go-ahead triples, and could have seemingly changed the complexion of the game. A key Sloan layup with just under a minute remaining pushed the Bucs lead back to four, and ETSU was able to hold on for the one-point SoCon win.

The win marked the first SoCon of the Desmond Oliver era.

VMI’s Jake Stephens, who has won back-to-back Southern Conference Player of the Week honors, led all scorers with 29 points on 11-of-19 shooting from the field, including having gone 3-for-9 from three-point range. Stephens also added 15 rebounds and a pair of assists. It was the 11th-career double-double for Stephens.

Stephens was one of four Keydets in double figures in the contest, with Kamdyn Curfman (17 pts), Tanner Mans (13 pts), and Trey Bonham (10 pts) rounding out the double-figure scorers for the Keydets.

ETSU was paced by Sloan’s 20 points, while LeDarrius Brewer and Jordan King added 19 and 13 points, respectively.

ETSU hosts Wofford in a 4 p.m. contest Saturday afternoon at Freedom Hall, while VMI will host UNCG at Cameron Hall in a 1 p.m. tilt.

Chattanooga 75, Wofford 67

The two teams ranked highest in the NET rankings squared off Wednesday night in Spartanburg, and it was the SoCon preseason favorite Chattanooga Mocs, which remained unbeaten in league play, as the Mocs posted an impressive 75-67 win over Wofford at the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium.

The win saw the Mocs improve to 12-3 overall and 2-0 in SoCon play, while Wofford fell to 8-6 overall and 0-2 in league action. It marks the first time Wofford has lost its first two SoCon games since the 2012-13 season.

Malachi Smith, David Jean-Baptiste and Darius Banks were a backcourt trio that were simply sensational the entire night for the Mocs, as the three players combined for 63 of the team’s 75 points in the road win. Smith led the way with 24 points, notching his ninth-straight game with 20 or more points.

The game was close throughout after it appeared the Mocs might take complete control of the contest from the outset, starting the game by scoring the first eight points of the night.

Wofford would find its game towards the middle portion of the opening half of play, taking a 30-23 lead following a Corey Tripp three-pointer with just over three minutes remaining in the opening half of play.

However, the Mocs would take all the momentum into the halftime locker room, using a 9-0 run over the final 3:30 to take a 32-30 lead to the break. Darius Banks finished off the half in style for the Mocs with a strong dunk to give the Mocs all the momentum heading to the locker room.

In the second half, once again Chattanooga started strong by scoring the first five points of the half to take a 37-30 lead, but Wofford would respond just as it had in the opening half to eventually take the lead. The Terriers would get the deficit to one a pair of times in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, with a jumper by Max Klesmit and a layup by Klesmit cutting the Mocs lead to one a couple of times, with the final time being at 44-43 with 11:25 remaining.

Though the game remained close for the remainder of the contest, the Terriers could never get closer than three points the rest of the way, with the last time being at 59-56 following a Godwin layup with 4:18 left.

Wofford was led in the contest by Max Klesmit, who finished with 22 points, five rebounds and dished out three assists, while Sam Godwin added 17 points and five boards, and B.J. Mack added 10.

Wofford heads to ETSU Saturday for a key 4 p.m. clash at Freedom Hall with the Bucs, while Chattanooga hosts The Citadel at 4 p.m.

Western Carolina 94, The Citadel 90 (OT)

In what was probably the game of the night, Western Carolina outlasted The Citadel, 94-90, In overtime Wednesday night at the Ramsey Center.

With the win, the Catamounts improved to 7-7 overall and 1-1 in SoCon play, while the Bulldogs’ record fell to 6-6 overall and 0-1 in league play.

In the Duggar Baucom reunion game, his former team defeated his current program for the second year in a row in a game that ended up in overtime. Like the Mercer-Samford game, this was also a featured attraction on the opening night of the 2021 Southern Conference Tournament, with The Citadel scoring a 100-86 win in the particular contest.

WCU found themselves trailing the contest, 73-68, with just under four minutes remaining, however, Tyler Harris, who posted his first-career double-double, got the Catamounts within three on a layup with 3:21 remaining. A little over a minute later, his three-pointer tied the contest, 73-73, with 2:19 left to play.

The Citadel’s sharp-shooting freshman guard Jason Roche answered on the other end with a three of his own to put the Bulldogs back on top.

A Nick Robinson three for the Catamounts would eventually tie the see-saw affair once again, 79-79, with 67 seconds remaining. It was all part of Robinson’s 19-point effort was part of a balanced scoring night, with five Catamounts finished in double figures.

The Citadel’s graduate transfer David Maynard, who finished with a career-night by scoring a career-best 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field and 3-for-7 from three-point land, put the Bulldogs back on top on a layup with 41 seconds remaining, giving the Bulldogs an 81-79 lead. Maynard was one of six Bulldogs players in double figures for the game. Robinson’s jumper with 32 ticks left tied the score once again, 81-81.

After the Catamounts forced a Citadel shot-clock violation on the Bulldogs next possession, Western Carolina had a chance to pull off the win, however, Robinson’s three-point attempt at the buzzer was no good, and the game went to overtime with the score tied, 81-81.

In the opening two minutes of the extra session, it Marcus Banks provided a brief two-possession lead, as his three swished with 3:02 remaining to give the Purple and Gold an 87-83 lead.

But the Bulldogs continued to fire those cannons with brazen efficiency from long range, as this time Rudy Fitzgibbons provided the answer with 1:53 left, as his bomb cut the Catamount lead back to one, 87-86.

Western would eventually extend the lead to five on free throws by Robinson and a layup by Marlow Gilmore, assuming a 91-86 lead with just 48 seconds left. The two teams traded 1-of-2 performances at the line on the next two possessions, leaving the Western Carolina with a 92-87 lead following Vonterrius Woolbright’s 1-for-2 effort with 23 seconds to play.

Things look good for Western. But Maynard didn’t want to go back to Charleston with a loss, and his triple with 12 seconds left cut it to two, as the ‘Dogs continued to make things tough on the Cats.

The Bulldogs were forced to foul Marvin Price on the ensuing possession with eight seconds remaining, and Price hit both foul shots to seal the 94-90 overtime win for the Catamounts.

Leading the five Catamounts in double figures in the contest was Robinson, who finished with 19 points. Marcus Banks added 18 points, while Vonterrius Woolbright completed his night with 17 points. Veteran Tyler Harris registered his first-career double-double, with 16 points and 11 boards, and Indiana State transfer Cam Bacote rounded out the Catamounts in double figures, as he finished with 12.

In addition to Maynard’s big night for the Bulldogs, The Citadel got a team-leading 19 points from Tyler Moffe, while fellow guard Rudy Fitzgibbons III added 15. Preseason SoCon Player of the Year Hayden Brown added 13 points and eight rebounds, while Jason Roche and Stephen Clark added 12 apiece. Clark also added six blocks and four boards.

The two teams combined to connect on 32 three-pointers in the contest, shooting a combined 79 of them. The Bulldogs knocked down 17 from long range, while the Catamounts fashioned 17 makes from the land of good and plenty.

Both teams return to action Saturday, with The Citadel traveling to face preseason SoCon favorite Chattanooga in a 4 p.m. contest in the Scenic City, while the Catamounts will be in Birmingham to face Samford in a 3 p.m. EST game.

Game Capsules for Jan. 8, 2022

UNCG (8-5, 0-1 SoCon) at VMI (9-6, 2-1 SoCon), 1 p.m.

–The first game of the day, should everything go according to schedule, will see defending champion UNC Greensboro look to rebound from a 58-54 loss to open league play Wednesday night against Furman head up to Lexington, VA, to take on the VMI Keydets.

The Keydets will also be looking to rebound from an 80-79 loss at East Tennessee State last Wednesday night. The Keydets have been tough to beat inside the friendly confines of Cameron Hall so far this season, as the Keydets are a perfect 5-0 at home this season, and enter the contest having won 17 of their past 18 games on their home floor.

It will mark the 30th all-time meeting between the Keydets and Spartans in a series, which began back in 1979. The Spartans hold a 20-9 all-time lead in the series, including having won nine of the past 10 meetings between the two in the series.

VMI’s Jake Stephens (18.0 PPG, 8.9 RPG) has been on a tear to start the 2021-22 season, garnering back-to-back SoCon Player of the Week accolades, as well as having garnered the SoCon’s December Player of the Month distinction. In the lost to East Tennessee State last time out, the senior big man contributed a double-double of 29 points and 15 rebounds.

Stephens has scored in double figures in all 15 games this season for the Keydets, and has five games of 20 or more points in a contest.

Another player that first-year UNCG head coach Mike Jones and the Spartans must be wary of is junior guard Kamdyn Curfman (18.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG), who has established himself as one of the top shooter’s in college basketball this season.

Like his teammate Stephens, Curfman has also scored in double figures in all 15 games, as well as having posted 20+ scoring performances this season. Curfman’s 59 triples this season ranks him second in the league behind only Furman’s Alex Hunter, who has knocked down 61.

UNCG doesn’t like to get up and down. They like to settle in and defend, and head coach Mike Jones’ club will try to make this game ugly. That’s how the Spartans put themselves in position to get a victory over Furman this past Wednesday night in the Gate City.

It’s why even after the graduation of a player as talented as Isaiah Miller, the Spartans will likely be a tough out for everyone in the league, as the Spartans enter the contest with the Keydets ranking second overall in the SoCon in scoring defense, yielding just 63.6 PPG.

As you might expect, that type defensive mindset hasn’t seen a lot of scoring individually, and the Spartans’ stats sheet probably won’t look as neatly distributed with double-figure scorers as some others might around the league.

The Spartans don’t really care, however, and defense will be what keeps Jones’ team in it most nights.Leading the way on the offensive end this season has been De’Monte Buckingham (13.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG).

The good news is if Buckingham needs some scoring help, it can be found, especially in dynamic guards Kobe Langley (6.4 PPG, 2.9 APG) and Keyshaun Langley (3.5 PPG, 1.8 APG).

UNCG enters the contest as the best rebounding team in the SoCon, and that showed Wednesday night, as the Spartans owned a +15 advantage on the boards in the loss to Furman. The Spartans currently are posting a +11.2 edge on the boards against foes this season.

Final Score prediction: VMI 77, UNCG 70

Samford forward Jacob Tryon/photo courtesy of Samford sports information

Western Carolina (7-7, 1-0 SoCon) at Samford (10-4, 0-2 SoCon), 3 p.m. EST

Samford will look to rebound from its heartbreaking loss on the SoCon road this past Wednesday night by capturing its first SoCon win of the 2021-22 season, when the Bulldogs host Western Carolina Saturday afternoon at the Pete Hanna Center.

The game between the Bulldogs and Catamounts will feature two of the better up-and-coming backcourts in the Southern Conference. The meeting between the Bulldogs and Catamounts will mark the 27th all-time clash between the two programs, with the Catamounts holding the narrow 14-12 lead in the all-time series.

The Bulldogs have one of the most dynamic scorers in the Southern in Ques Glover (19.6 PPG, 4.4 APG), who enters Saturday’s contest ranking second to only Chattanooga’s Malachi Smith in scoring. Glover’s 4.4 assists-per-game leads the SoCon.

Glover will team with one of the most talented young guards in the Southern Conference, in 6-6 wing Wesley Cardet Jr. (8.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG), and Loyola Chicago transfer Cooper Kaifes (6.5 PPG, 3.3 RPG). Samford forward Jermaine Marshall (12.6 PPG, 8.9 RPG) is coming off an outstanding effort in the loss at Mercer last time out, as he contributed a double-double with 24 points and 13 rebounds.

Western Carolina has its own talented guard to counter Glover with in the form of graduate transfer Nicholas Robinson (15.3, 7.4 RPG), who comes into the contest ranking 10th in the SoCon in scoring. Junior guard Vonterrius Woolbright (9.7 PPG, 4.4 APG) enters the matchup ranking second to only Samford’s Glover in assists-per-game.

In the front court, center Joe Petrakis (7.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG) has given the Catamounts a physical edge in the paint.

Both teams are almost entirely new and have good talent. This game could get into the high 70s and low 80s. I expect the Bulldogs to come away with their first Southern Conference win of the season.

Final Score Prediction: Samford 81, Western Carolina 77

The Bon Secours Wellness Arena provided an electric atmosphere for three Furman games during the 2019-20 season

Mercer (8-6, 1-0 SoCon) at Furman (10-6, 2-1 SoCon), 4 p.m.

For the first time since the 2020 season, which saw Furman play three of its home games in downtown Greenville at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, will once again return to the facility to face Mercer in its fourth Southern Conference game of the season.

It will mark the first of three games the Paladins will play in the facility, as the Paladins will also face both UNC Greensboro (Feb. 5) and Wofford (Feb. 16) next month as a part of the “Weekends at the Well” series.

It’s a series that Furman successfully averaged nearly 6,000 fans in attendance in all three games against Winthrop, UNCG and Wofford during the 2019-2020 season, as the Paladins went 2-1 in games played in the facility.

Against Mercer, the Paladins have enjoyed plenty of success, dating back to the 2014-15 season, with Furman having won 12-straight over the Bears in the series.

The winning streak over the Bears by the Paladins actually started on a neutral floor, as the Paladins posted a 52-49 win in the SoCon semifinals in Asheville to advance to the Southern Conference title game. That proved to be a significant turning point victory for the program.

It will mark the 32nd all-time meeting between the Paladins and Bears, 21-10. Mercer got a hard-fought 83-80 win over Samford the last time out, while Furman had to hold off a gritty UNCG team to get a 58-54 win. With 99 wins in his fifth season as the head coach, Furman’s Bob Richey has a chance to notch his 100th victory as Furman’s head coach just a few days after enjoying another one of life’s milestone moments–the birth of his third child.

Furman is blessed with might be the top trio in any starting five in the Southern Conference, in seniors Mike Bothwell (15.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.8 APG) and Alex Hunter (16.4 PPG, 3.3 APG, 2.2 RPG) in the backcourt, while Jalen Slawson (15.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 4.0 APG, 2.1 SPG, 1.9 BPG) has been the fulcrum that has the Paladin offense working like a well-oiled machine most times.

Two of those three scored in double figures the last time out in the win at UNCG, with only four player’s scoring for the Paladins in the win over the defending champs Wednesday night. Marcus Foster II (7.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG) had one of his best performances of his career in a Paladin uniform, especially shooting from long range, connecting on a perfect 4-of-4 from long range.

The Paladins were without veteran Conley Garrison (8.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG) the last time out due to COVID-19, and there’s not been any definitive word on whether or not he will be available at the Well on Saturday.

Mercer might not have Neftali Alvarez, however, Greg Gary’s Bears have more than enough to be more than a headache and even spoil Furman’s return to its downtown venue on Saturday afternoon.

Felipe Haase (15.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG) is a similar assignment to that of Jake Stephens in terms of what must be done to guard him. Haase is one of the best shooting big men in mid-major hoops, and in an 88-85 overtime loss at Winthrop earlier this season, scoring 41 points in 41 minutes, accounting for the season-best scoring total for a single game for any SoCon player.

Haase is one three Bears averaging in double figures coming into Saturday’s contest, with Wake Forest transfer and wing guard Jalen Johnson (14.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG), while forward James Glisson III (11.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG) is enjoying his best season so far for the Bears.

Kamar Robertson (8.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG) has assumed the point guard duties in the absence of Alvarez, however, Johnson is also a good enough ball-handler to handle the responsibilities, and could cause matchup issues defensively for Furman with a size mis-match.

IMG_3871.jpg photo 5
Ledarrius Brewer/photo courtesy of Dakota Hamilton of East Tennessee State athletics

Wofford (8-6, 0-2 SoCon) at East Tennessee State (9-6, 1-1 SoCon), 4 p.m. EST

Wofford and East Tennessee State meet in what is a monumental Southern Conference battle for both Saturday afternoon in Johnson City. The Bucs got a much needed, confidence-building, 80-79, win over VMI last time out on the home floor, while Wofford dropped a 75-67 decision to preseason SoCon favorite Chattanooga in the friendly confines of Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium.

It marked the first 0-2 start to a conference game since the 2012-13 season, and for the Bucs, the win over the previously SoCon unbeaten Keydets could prove to be a major turning point for head coach Desmond Oliver’s Bucs, after ETSU lost its SoCon opener on the road by 30 to Chattanooga.

The Terriers and Bucs have at least one thing in common so far this season, and that is both sport wins over SEC member Georgia. The Terriers knocked off the Bulldogs, 68-65, in late November, while ETSU defeated the Bulldogs 86-84 just prior to the start of conference play.

An 0-3 start for Jay McAuley’s wouldn’t completely put the Terriers out of the regular-season conference title race, however, it would put them in a precarious situation for sure.

ETSU and Wofford will be meeting for the 55th time on Saturday afternoon in what will be the SoCon’s Nexstar Game of the Week. The Bucs hold a commanding 39-15 advantage in the all-time series, with the two teams splitting the meetings last season. The Bucs got a dominating 71-49 win in Johnson City in mid February last season. It came just 12 days following a 67-62 Terrier win in Spartanburg.

The series between the two has been close as of late, with each of the two teams winning five games in the last 10 games of this series. Ledarrius Brewer (12.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG) was outstanding for ETSU last season for the Bucs in the win in Johnson City, as he went for 30 on an impressive 11-of-14 shooting performance from the field, which included a 6-for-9 effort from three-point range.

The Bucs’ success this season usually coincides with a big performance against from point guard David Sloan (12.1 PPG, 4.3 APG). For many, Sloan is having the type season that some folks thought he might have last season when he arrived from Kansas State.

Similar to Wofford with its loss of Messiah Jones to a season-ending injury, East Tennessee State has also had to deal with its own significant loss in the paint, with Silas Adheke having decided to return to Nigeria to work to help support his family. It has affected the Bucs’ depth underneath the basket. Matt Nunez–a 6-10, 240-lb freshman project type player that Oliver had hoped to redshirt, ended up making his first appearance in the paint for the Bucs last time out.

Wofford has had to adjust to not having Jones for most of the season, and that has been notably a bigger loss for the Terriers, than Adheke was for ETSU. After all, Adheke wasn’t an all-conference performance. Given the fact that Jones had two of his best career performances against ETSU in previous seasons, it will be one less worry that the Bucs will have to deal with Saturday.

While Storm Murphy has been missed at point guard, the committee approach by the Terriers has been working so far. Ryan Larson (9.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 4.2 APG), who is now a junior, has really had to work to come into his own as one of the more complete point guards in the SoCon, but he’s done an admirable job of getting to that point.

No, he’s not Murphy, but he is a winner. He makes winning plays, and is an outstanding defender. Larson is that pest we’ve seen at other programs over the years. He’s that guy like former Purdue guard Bryan Cardinal, who did all the necessary things for his Boilermakers to win basketball games, whether that meant diving on the floor after a loose ball, or taking a charge.

Fellow backcourt mate Max Klesmit (16.0 PPG, 2.6 RPG) is having a breakout season for the Terriers, and he can score in a variety of different ways, including being a pretty effective perimeter threat, connecting on 35.5% (27-of-76) from three-point land this season. Klesmit has found himself in double figures in 11 of the 13 games he has seen action in this season for the Terriers.

In the paint, B.J. Mack (14.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG) and Sam Godwin (7.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG) have both stepped up their overall play and production underneath in the absence of Jones.

Final Score Prediction: ETSU 78, Wofford 74

The Citadel (6-6, 0-1 SoCon) at Chattanooga (12-3, 2-0 SoCon), 4 p.m.

Southern Conference preseason favorite Chattanooga will look to move to 3-0 in league play inside the friendly confines of McKenzie Arena, however, will have to do so against a tricky opponent, in Duggar Baucom’s The Citadel team, who has the potential to run any team out of the gym with the way the Bulldogs can shoot the three at times.

The meeting between the Mocs and Bulldogs will be meeting for the 88th time Saturday, with Chattanooga holding a commanding 68-19 all-time edge in the series, which includes a 37-6 all-time series edge in the Roundhouse.

The Mocs and Bulldogs split the two meetings last season, with The Citadel using a season SoCon scoring high of 37 points to claim a 92-87 win in Charleston last season, while the Mocs returned the favor in mid-February, with a 70-66 win at the Roundhouse. The Mocs have claimed seven wins in the last 10 games in the series.

Malachi Smith (20.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 3.7 APG) continued his outstanding play as of late the last time out on the floor for the Mocs, as he posted a game-high 24 points in the road win at Wofford, marking his ninth-consecutive game with 20 or more points. Smith continues to lead the Southern Conference in scoring average this season, as he is posting 20.4 PPG.

The game-high 24 points against the Terriers, however, wasn’t the only area which Smith was able to impact the game, as he also was able to do so on the boards (5 rebs), as a facilitator (3 assists) and on the defensive end (3 steals).

Smith teams teams with sixth-year guard David Jean-Baptiste (14.5 PPG, 2.5 APG) and Darius Banks (7.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG), as the trio accounts to make up arguably one of the top backcourts in all of mid-major basketball.

Expected to make his return underneath the basket after sitting out the game at Wofford will Kansas impact transfer Silvio DeSousa (12.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG), who might be the biggest reason many feel that the Mocs will live up to those lofty preseason expectations by both the coaches and media. DeSousa’s 58.9 FG% continues to lead the league this season.

The Bulldogs, who come into the matchup averaging a league-best 82.6 PPG, have the preseason SoCon Player of the Year, in Hayden Brown (19.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG), and a guard in Jason Roche (14.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG), that could very well end the campaign as the league’s Freshman of the Year. Through the first 12 games this season, Roche has knocked down 46 long-range efforts, averaging nearly four made triples per game (3.8).

Roche is following in a long line of great Bulldogs shooters, which includes the likes of Noy Castillo, Zach Urbanus, Travis Cantrell and Cameron Wells just to name a few. Should Roche stay in Charleston all four years, he has a chance to launch his own assault on the school’s all-time long-range shooting records.

Stephen Clark (9.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.7 BPG) continues to be a rim protector for the Bulldogs this season, and his six blocks in the last outing at Western Carolina were among the best defensive performances in school history. He’ll have his hands full with the Mocs big front line, which includes the aforementioned DeSousa, as well as 6-10 UCF transfer Avery Diggs (4.9 PPG, 2.6 RPG).

While I think this game will be close for awhile, I also think its the game that also ends up resulting in a double-digit margin of victory.

It probably comes as little shock to most that the Bulldogs lead the SoCon in threes made in league games after canning 17 triples in an overtime loss at Western Carolina last time out. As a whole, in 12 games to this point in the season, the Bulldogs have connected on a total of 136 treys, averaging 11.3 made threes per contest.

Final Score Prediction: Chattanooga 77, The Citadel 63

Furman wins defensive slugfest at UNCG

Furman scored a season-low in a win, as the Paladins posted a 58-54 win on the road at defending league tournament and regular-season and champion UNC Greensboro in Southern Conference action Wednesday night at the Greensboro Coliseum.

The best news of the day for head coach Bob Richey was the birth of his son—Jacks Burner Richey—at about 2 p.m. in Greenville. After the conclusion of another great milestone of life, Richey made the short drive of about 3.5 hours to Greensboro from Greenville with assistant coach Daniel Fowler, arriving about 90 minutes prior to tip-off. 

Richey knew the importance of being there for his team after the Paladins were beaten 76-67 at VMI last Saturday. With Furman’s four-point win, Richey’s day was a complete win, and he will have the opportunity to pick up another milestone Saturday for the Paladins at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, facing the Mercer Bears, as he will have a chance to notch his 100th win as the head coach of the Furman basketball program. 

With the win, Furman improved to 10-6 overall and 2-1 in league play, while the Spartans dropped to 8-5 overall and 0-1 in SoCon play. The Spartans were were playing their first game in 20 days. It was Furman’s fourth true road win of the season. 

The 58 points in the Furman win were the lowest point total in a victory since Nov. 27, 2019, when the Paladins picked up a 58-57 win over UT-Arlington in a neutral floor in-season tournament at Elon. It marked the first time Furman won a Southern Conference game scoring less than 60 points for the first time since Feb.26, 2015, when the Paladins knocked off Western Carolina, 53-49, at Timmons Arena.

Only four players scored for the Paladins in the contest, which included three in double figures, as Mike Bothwell (20 pts), Alex Hunter (16 pts), and Marcus Foster (13 pts) combined for 49 of Furman’s 58 points in the win. Jalen Slawson contributed nine points, snapping a streak of 13-straight games in double figures for the senior forward from Summerville, S.C., with the last time Slawson failed to find his way into double digits being in the 80-72 overtime win over Louisville, which saw the senior finish with just five points. 

The Paladins were playing a bit short-handed, missing starter Conley Garrison in the backcourt, who did not make the trip to the Gate City as a result of COVID-19 protocols. 

Bothwell posted his fifth game of 20 or more points this season by connecting on 7-of-11 shots from the field and 2-for-4 from three-point land. He also added a 4-for-5 performance from the charity stripe, including the two game-clinching foul shots with 11 seconds remaining to help the Paladins notch win No. 10 and split the opening road trip of league play with a 1-1 mark.

In addition to his team-leading 20-point scoring effort,  the senior from Cleveland Heights, OH, three assists, two steals, and posted a pair of rebounds.

Hunter finished the contest by connecting on 5-of-17 shots from the field, including going 5-for-15 from three-point range. The senior from nearby Raleigh, N.C., also recorded three steals, an assist and a rebound. 

Foster’s 13 points came as a result of his best shooting night of his career, going 4-of-6 from the field, including going a perfect 4-for-4 from three-point range. The sophomore guard added eight rebounds,  an assist, a block and a steal to round out his double-figure scoring effort.

Slawson finished 4-of-13 from the field and was 1-of-7 from three-point land. The senior from Summerville, S.C., added three assists, three blocks, two steals and two rebounds. 

UNCG finished with three in double figures, with De’Monte Buckingham leading the way with 14 points, while forward Mohammad Abdulsalam added 11 and guard Kobe Langley finished with 10. Dante Treacy finished on the verge of double figures, finishing with nine.

Buckingham connected 6-of-11 shots from the field, and 2-for-4 from three-point range, including seven rebounds and added an assist.

For the game, Furman shot the ball at 40% (20-of-50) from the field for the game, including 37.5% (12-of-31) from three-point range. UNCG finished the night connecting on 41.8% (23-of-55), including 31.3% (5-of-16) from three-point range. 

The Spartans owned a massive 34-10 advantage in points in the paint, and also were a +15 on the backboards, out-rebounding the Paladins, 38-23. 

UNCG owned advantages in second-chance points (19-15), fast-break points (8-1), assists (12-8), and bench points (6-0). Both teams scored 12 points off turnovers. 

How It Happened: 

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.

Up Next:

Furman returns to its downtown home—Bon Secours Wellness Arena—for the first time since the 2019-20 season, as it will face off against Mercer (8-6, 1-0 SoCon) at 4 p.m. in a key SoCon tilt. 

Furman stumbles at VMI to open 2022

Furman senior forward Jalen Slawson/photo courtesy of Furman athletics

It was inauspicious start on the road to the 2022 calendar year for Furman basketball, which was under the direction of associate head coach Jeremy Growe, who was served in head coach Bob Richey’s stead, as Richey was at his wife’s side for the birth of the their third child. 

At the end of the first day of the new calendar year, VMI had picked up its third-straight win over Furman and remained perfect at both Cameron Hall (5-0) and in SoCon play (2-0), as the Keydets posted a 76-67 win over Furman in what was the only SoCon game not canceled by COVID-19 protocols on the opening day of the year.

With the win, VMI claimed its second-straight win and its sixth in its last seven outings to improve to 9-5 overall and 2-0 in league play, while Furman dropped to 9-6 overall and 1-1 in league action.

Jake Stephens posted a game-high 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while sophomore guard Trey Bonham chipped in 16 points and added four assists, highlighting four Keydet players in double figures in the contest. Stephens posted his game-high 23 on a 10-of-16 shooting effort from the field, which included a 2-for-5 effort from long range. Stephens also dished out four helpers and blocked three shots.

Joining Stephens and Bonham in double figures for the Keydets were both Sean Conway and Kamdyn Curfman, as each added 11. Conway had a solid all-around game, as he posted a double-double, finishing with 12 boards, while also dishing out five assists.

Furman was led by another stat-stuffing afternoon from Jalen Slawson, who continued his outstanding senior season by leading three Paladins in double figures, with 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal. The native of Summerville, S.C., connected on 8-of-19 shots from the field and was 2-for-7 from three-point range. He also knocked down both foul shot opportunities in the contest. 

Mike Bothwell scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half, as he finished the afternoon by connecting on 5-of-9 shots from the field, including going 3-for-6 from three-point range and was also 1-of-2 at the charity stripe. Bothwell added a season and team-high eight rebounds and dished out a pair of assists.

Joe Anderson, who’s playing as well as any player on the Paladin roster at the moment, finished with his third-straight double-figure scoring performance, as he added 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting from the field, including a 3-for-8 effort from three-point range. He also finished with a pair of rebounds.

Alex Hunter struggled shooting the basketball for the second-straight outing, as he was held to eight points on just 3-for-13 shooting from the field and 3-for-10 from long-range. Since his jaw-dropping 30-point effort at Mississippi State earlier this month, which saw the star guard and all-time winningest Paladin hooper connect on an 11-of-15 shooting from the field, including a blistering 77% performance from three-point range, canning eight of 11 attempts.

Hunter was forced to leave the game early following a scary moment, which saw him go airborne and hit the back of his head in the final non-conference game against Presbyterian, as was undercut by PC’s Winston Hill, who was looking to draw the foul on a three-point shot and when Hunter jumped at the pump fake, Hill inadvertently caught him on the way down causing a tumble. 

Over the past three games, Hunter has connected on just 7-of-24 shots from the field and just 5-for-23 from three-point land. As with any sport,—they are fickle—streaks ebb and flow.. Hunter will find his shot again soon…Just like Bothwell has. 

Marcus Foster finished on the cusp of double figures for the Paladins, finishing with nine points on 3-of-4 shooting from the field and 1-for-2 from three-point land. 

Individual shooting struggles come with every team hoping to complete its mission of winning a title of any sort, however, there is one thing in basketball that is seemingly non-negotiable, and that is defense. Furman played well at times on that end of the floor, even holding a 36-30 at the break. Furman had been 7-0 when holding the lead at the break prior to today this season. 

But it was a second half that would likely be described as forgettable by both team and staff, as the Keydets blistered the nets to the tune of 62.1% (18-of-29) from the field in the second half, overturning that six-point deficit at the break and turning it into a nine-point win by out-scoring the Paladins 46-31 in the second half. The Keydets shot nearly 50% from three in the second half, connecting on 7-of-15 from long range. The more shocking stat is the Keydets were 11-of-14 on two-point shots.

In the opening half, the Paladin defense was solid, limiting the Keydets to just 39.3% (11-of-28) from the field, with the three-point shot having kept the Keydets in it, as it overcame mediocre overall shooting by connecting on 46.7% (7-of-15) from three. The 62% shooting effort in the second half saw the Keydets improve their shooting percentage to 50.9% (29-of-57).

Furman’s low energy second half drew some obvious comparisons to the early home loss vs Navy back in November, which saw the Paladins fall by a similar score line. In the 77-66 loss to the Midshipmen back on Nov. 21, 2021. In that contest, Navy did hold the halftime edge, 38-31, however, the offensive numbers in the second half almost mirrored what happened Saturday in Lexington. 

The Midshipmen went to outscore the Paladins, 39-35, in the second half of that contest, and after shooting a red-hot 56% in the opening half of play, improved to 62.6% in the second. It might come with a bit of irony when you consider the fact that VMI’s head coach Dan Earl considers Navy head coach Ed DeChellis the most influential mentor as a basketball coach. 

For the game, the Paladins struggled shooting most of the day, however, connecting on 40.3% (25-of-62) shots from the field for the game, including connecting on just 31.6% (12-of-39) from three-point range.

VMI finished the day with advantages in points in the paint (28-24), second-chance points (11-8), total rebounds (35-30), bench points (12-11), and fast-break points (9-5). Furman did manage to hold an advantage in points from turnovers (13-8).

How It Happened:

The Paladins started the game with a technical foul as a result of not having the official submitted to the official scorer by the 10-minute mark prior to tip-off, and Kamdyn Curfman’s free throw prior to tip-off gave the Keydets a 1-0 lead.

Despite trailing by a point prior to tip-off and then trailing 3-0 following VMI’s gained possession off the won tip-off after a Curfman jumper from the elbow, the Paladins used back-to-back triples from Jalen Slawson and Mike Bothwell to assume a 6-3 lead, and though the opening half of play would see the Keydets tie the Paladins three times in the opening half, but following the 3-0 deficit early in the game, the Paladins wouldn’t trail again en route to taking a 36-30 into the halftime locker room.

The Paladins, who like VMI,  came into the game known for their perimeter prowess, used 16 buckets in the paint, with 12 layups and four dunks to showcase Furman’s overall offensive versatility as a complete basketball.  Furman led by as many as eight in the opening half (30-22).

Early in the second half, a Trey Bonham three-pointer would see the Keydets assume their first lead since it was 3-0, as Bonham’s right elbow triple gave the Keydets a 40-39 lead with 16:33 remaining. Shortly thereafter, a pair of Bonham foul shots following the first media timeout of the second half gave VMI a 42-39 lead with 15:59 remaining. Bothwell’s second made three-pointer of the game would tie the basketball moments later. 

After a Curfman jumper gave VMI a brief 44-43 lead, Bothwell’s second-straight three gave the Paladins a 45-44 lead. After a VMI miss on the other end, Bothwell’s layup gave him eight-straight points and Furman a 47-44 lead with 13:46 remaining. In fact, for a stretch, Bothwell scored a total of 11 of 13 points, as the game was left tied at 51 with just over 10 minutes remaining.

After Furman assumed its final lead of the day at 55-54 lead on Slawson layup with 9:03 remaining, VMI answered with a a three from Brennan Watkins and a steal and layup by Honor Huff to make it a 59-55 lead for the Keydets. It would be the start of what would become an eventual 19-6 run which the Keydets parlayed into a 74-61 lead on a Bonham triple with 43 seconds remaining.

Up Next:

Furman continues on the SoCon road when it faces off against reigning Southern Conference champion UNC Greensboro (8-4), who has yet to get its conference season underway due to two COVID postponements. The Paladins and Spartans split a pair of meetings last season, with Furman winning in Greenville, while the Spartans were triumphant in the Gate City.