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Tony Bennett provides his initial thoughts on matchup with Furman

Virginia’s head coach details Furman’s strengths and how UVA will have to play them.

Texas Tech v Michigan State Photo by Josh Duplechian/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

After the Virginia Cavaliers found out that the Furman Paladins would be their first round opponent in this year’s NCAA Tournament, Tony Bennett addressed the media yesterday afternoon and provided his initial thoughts on the threat that Furman poses and the players on that team that are most dangerous.

Initially, Bennett emphasized that “there’s a reason they’ve been so good for so many years. That program is really established. They really play the right way.” Getting into the Paladins’ personnel, he mentioned that “they’re a veteran team with [6’7” forward Jalen Slawson] the Player of the Year in the [Southern Conference], the leading scorer in the conference [6’3” shooting guard Mike Bothwell]. They have a very good point guard in [6’1” JP Pegues].”

Those three players — Slawson, Bothwell, and Pegues — are essentially Furman’s big three. With Slawson as the versatile big man who can stretch the defense and make plays for himself and others, Bothwell a versatile scorer who knows how to hunt his shot, and Pegues a capable lead guard who can both hit shots and create for his teammates, the Paladins have a really solid offensive core.

On Furman’s style and how they utilize those players, Bennett touched on how “they can get it down the floor, shoot it well, but also run good stuff and play hard defensively. I think a couple guys came back for a fifth year (Slawson and Bothwell both did). They’ve played well and you can see it. They do a lot of good stuff. They’ll challenge you [defensively] in a lot of ways.”

As for Slawson, perhaps the toughest individual matchup the Paladins present, Bennett said that “he’s just good. He’s mature. He’s a complete offensive player and [is] very competitive. At his size and length, he can shoot the three, put it on the floor, [and] pass well.” Virginia’s head coach also noted Slawson’s positional versatility, saying “he can play the five as well. His versatility... I can see why he was the player of the year in the league. They use him in unique ways. How they stretch the floor, he’s almost like a point-forward. A talented player.”

In regards to how the ‘Hoos will go about guarding Slawson, Bennett said that they’ll have to see as they game progresses “because he’s very mobile.” He continued, adding that “everybody’s got to be ready to go. Watching [Kyle] Filipowski play for Duke and some of these mobile [big] guys, you have to be ready for guys who can play at the four and shoot it, put it on the floor, and make some plays. We got nine able guys right now and they all gotta be ready to go. It will be a collective effort because they’re going to make you guard with cuts and movement and clever stuff. Guys like Slawson, all their players, they can shoot the three and put it on the floor with good movement.”

Undoubtedly, the offensive scheme that Furman Head Coach Bob Richey runs is a difficult one to defend. The Paladins like to spread opponents out with five players who can shoot and then run a four out, one in offense that utilizes plenty of ball screens and off-ball screening.

Bennett, who’s father knows former Furman head coach Niko Medved who Richey was an assistant for before taking over as the head coach, said that “that’s a good young coach, a really good young coach,” and that “seeing how they’ve executed offensively and defensively, it catches your attention. They know what they’re doing. It’ll be an exciting challenge.”