Photo: Winthrop Athletics
ROCK HILL, S.C. – “Easy” is never a word used to describe any game played against Bob Richey’s Furman Paladins.
The word didn’t fit Winthrop’s Tuesday night contest against the visitors from Greenville, either. Furman hit 15 threes. Senior forward Jalen Slawson had a triple-double – the first in Furman’s storied history.
Somehow, Winthrop overcame it all.
The Eagles held the Paladins scoreless for the final 2:19, landing the final punch in an 85-80 result that played much more like a heavyweight title fight.
“Our team is really deep and really resilient,” Winthrop coach Mark Prosser said after the game. “You can see it on a game-by-game basis. It’s gonna be different guys (each game). Mike Anumba was terrific. He just empties the tank at both ends of the floor.
“I thought our guys really buckled down and finished possessions, and we were able to make some winning plays down the stretch.”
One would expect a back-and-forth affair between two of the top Palmetto State programs, and they provided exactly that in the first 20. The sides tussled through much of the half, with the Eagles first seizing control and the Paladins quickly countering. Neither grabbed a lead larger than five in the period. Alex Hunter afforded Furman its five-point advantage on a triple with 10:05 to play, while Winthrop went up five on an and-one from Mike Anumba with 3:13 remaining. A DJ Burns putback off a miss near the horn provided the Eagles a 43-42 advantage at the interval.
Furman (6-3) broke the second-half seal on a Slawson jumper, returning the lead to the purple-clad visitors. Burns countered for Winthrop on the ensuing possession, drawing a smile from the Winthrop big man as part of the battle that unfurled during every possession on which they shared the floor. Winthrop (5-4) snagged another five-point lead off a 7-2 microburst over two minutes midway through the period. The Paladins then countered with a 6-0 run that again switched the lead.
The Paladins stormed back from a five-point deficit nearing the final media break, using a 7-0 run to retake the lead, 78-76. Cory Hightower canned two free throws to again draw the game level nearing the three-minute mark. Alex Hunter converted a layup with 2:19 to go, again flipping the lead back to Furman.
That would be the last time the Paladins would light the proverbial lamp.
The Eagles closed on a 7-0 run, keyed by a corner triple from Anumba and layup from Drew Buggs on ensuing possessions. Pat Good dropped two free throws to provide the final margin.
The Anumba three, though, proved to be the dagger. The forward, renowned for his ability to knock down threes from the corner, did it again to extend his perfect night from the floor.
“When DJ shot the hook, I ran back on defense, because literally, that’s his shot. He always makes that,” Anumba said of the shot that led to the extended possession. “I saw Cory (Hightower) driving to the baseline. We practice that all the time – when someone drives to the baseline, get to the corner.
“I got to the corner, and when he found me – I love corners. I shot it with confidence.”
Slawson’s triple-double came despite his fouling out late in the contest. The Summerville, S.C., native scored 15 points, dished 12 helpers, and grabbed 10 rebounds. The senior did not lead the Paladins in scoring, however. Alex Hunter tallied 24 to lead all scorers, draining 7-of-10 from the floor (4-of-6 from three). Mike Bothwell added 10 for the Paladins, who shot 46.7 percent (28-for-60) from the deck.
Anumba paced the Eagles with 18, hitting all five tries from the field and each of his three attempts from distance. Hightower added 16 to lead the remaining four Eagles in doubles, with Buggs adding 13, Burns 12, and Kelton Talford 10. Winthrop found the net on 56.1 percent of its shots (32-for-57), hitting nine threes on 17 looks (52.9 percent). The Eagles also forced 12 Paladin turnovers, which they converted into 18 points.
Furman returns to action Friday night in Greenville, S.C., hosting Appalachian State. Tip time in Timmons Arena is set for 7:00 (Eastern).
Winthrop will travel across town to play Carver College in the No Room For Racism Classic at the Rock Hill Sports & Event Center. That game will also get underway at 7:00.
WINTHROP 85, FURMAN 80
FURMAN (6-3): Bothwell 3-8 2-2 10, Foster 4-7 0-1 8, Hunter 7-10 6-7 24, Hien 1-4 0-0 2, Garrison 3-8 0-0 9, Pegues 1-2 0-0 3, Slawson 6-16 1-1 15, Anderson 2-2 0-0 6, Williams 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 28-60 9-11 80.
WINTHROP (5-4): Jones 0-1 0-0 0, Anumba 5-5 5-5 18, Good 3-3 2-2 9, Hightower 6-8 2-2 16, Claxton 1-7 0-0 2, McMahon 2-6 0-0 5, Talford 4-6 2-2 10, Buggs 5-8 1-3 13, Burns 6-13 0-0 12. Totals 32-57 12-14 85.
Halftime — Winthrop 43-42. 3-Point Goals—Furman 15-36 (Bothwell 2-6, Foster 0-2, Hunter 4-6, Hien 0-1, Garrison 3-8, Pegues 1-2, Slawson 2-7, Anderson 2-2, Williams 1-2), Winthrop 9-17 (Anumba 3-3, Good 1-1, Hightower 2-4, Claxton 0-2, McMahon 1-3, Buggs 2-4). Fouled Out — Slawson (FU). Rebounds — Winthrop 31 (Burns 6), Furman 28 (Slawson 10). Assists —Furman 18 (Slawson 12), Winthrop 15 (Buggs 5). Total Fouls — Winthrop 16, Furman 14. Technical — Slawson (FU), Burns (WU), Prosser (WU). A —920.