Two of the best Mid-Major programs met Monday night in Nashville. Furman traveled to Belmont University in a competitive non-conference matchup. The Bruins have one of the best home-court advantages in the southeast; only 13 losses have been recorded in the Curb Center. Furman was coming off a marquee win against Louisville, on the road at the KFC Yum Center, on Friday Nov. 12.
Furman started off the game strong. Their quick-paced tempo and aggressive playstyle led to a 20-13 lead with 12 minutes left in the first half. The Paladins ranked inside the top ten in the nation in total offense (points scored) heading into the Belmont matchup. Now, Furman is ranked 15th in the country in total offense. However, the story of the first half was Furman’s defense. They smothered the ball and forced turnovers. Furman had 12 steals and forced 16 turnovers. This complemented their quick pace. Belmont responded in kind; it was a game of runs for the Bruins. Belmont shot 50 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from the field. Belmont’s strong response led to a 36-32 lead at the half.
Furman opened the second half the way they started the game, with great urgency and tempo. The Paladins had a seven-point lead with under three minutes left. However, Belmont proved to be a force to reckon with. The Bruins won by six points in OT. Furman struggled to get anything going in the extra time, and Belmont controlled the momentum to a big home win.
Furman looked great for most of the game, but turnovers and poor game management led to an avoidable loss. It is an ominous sign to see the struggles of last year’s disappointing season to stick around; Furman struggled to close games when it mattered. With a seven-point lead and under three minutes to play, it is difficult, to say the least, to lose by 6. It’s better for Furman to work out these kinks now, but much like last year, Furman needs to find a way to close out games that they should be winning. Monday night was a great example.
Furman received votes for AP Top 25 polling the week beginning Nov. 15. The Dins ended Louisville’s 49-year streak without a November loss. Furman’s Mike Bothwell was also named Southern Conference Player of the Week and Lou Henson National Player of the Week as a result of his performance against Louisville; he scored a career-high 30 points against the Cardinals. Furman heads into more non-conference play with a 2-1 record.