Bothwell and Furman Light up ETSU
The Paladins hit the court again on Wednesday, Jan. 20 at VMI.
The most notable Paladin performance came from junior guard Mike Bothwell who scored a career-high 32 points.
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On Jan. 16, Furman men’s basketball continued their strong start to the season, defeating Southern Conference rival East Tennessee State University 78-66 at Timmons Arena. Saturday’s triumph was the fifth consecutive for the Paladins, who have rebounded nicely from early-season losses to Cincinnati, Alabama, and Winthrop. As of this writing, the team sits at 10-3 overall and 4-0 in the Southern Conference. With their undefeated conference record, Furman has taken the lead in the league standings, as Saturday’s game marked ETSU’s first Southern Conference loss of the season.
The most notable Paladin performance came from junior guard Mike Bothwell who scored a career-high 32 points. Seniors Alex Hunter and Clay Mounce added 15 and 14 points to the scoreboard, respectively. The game was close at halftime, with Furman leading the Buccaneers only 37-35, but strong team play allowed the Paladins to pull away in the second half, outscoring ETSU 41-31. Collectively, Furman shot 51.8% from the field, compared to just 45.6% for ETSU. Furman also won the rebounding battle, pulling down 35 to ETSU’s 30.
From a technical standpoint, Hunter described the game as “the best one so far this season.” He noted Furman’s ability to lock down defensively and close out a tough opponent late in the game as a key step for the team. According to Hunter, playing lockdown defense throughout the course of a game is a major component of Coach Bob Richey’s philosophy – “takeaways, no giveaways.” Saturday’s result also speaks to the depth of the Paladins’ roster, with many players getting the chance to contribute, especially on the defensive end. As one player told The Paladin, “This is definitely one of the best, if not the best, teams I’ve been on in my time here.”
In terms of the overarching goal for the Paladins, this game set an important tone. In recent years, Furman has battled ETSU for Southern Conference titles, with ETSU finishing first in 2017 and 2020. As Furman seeks to win its first Southern Conference championship since 1980 and earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament later this spring, this big-time home win against a familiar foe will embolden and inspire the team. This victory was symbolic and provides much optimism for Paladin players and fans alike.
In a post-game interview, Hunter echoed this sentiment. “I think Saturday’s game proved to us that we truly can compete and play with the best teams in the league on any given night,” he said. “You’re not promised anything until you do it, and we are proving that we’re able to do it in a Furman-like fashion. We can really succeed our own way.”
Moving forward, Coach Richey and the players will continue to emphasize that the season is a marathon, not a sprint. “It’s not going to be done in one day,” Hunter said, “but we’re making strides in the right direction.” While there is still work ahead for the team, they have a sense of confidence and accomplishment after such a big win.
The Paladins hit the court again on Wednesday, January 20th at VMI. The game is at 7:00 p.m. and can be streamed on ESPN+.