Furman knocks off Virginia for first NCAA Tournament win in 48 years

March 16, 2023

2023 NCAA Tournament First Round

Amway Center (20,000)/Orlando, FL

No. 13 Furman 68, No. 4 Virginia 67

Pegues’ March Magic Keeps Paladins Dancing

Furman hasn’t appeared in an NCAA Tournament in 43 years, and hadn’t won a game in the Big Dance in 48 years, however, when J.P. Pegues knocked down an NBA three-pointer  in the home of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, it was a fitting return to the Big Dance for the Paladins, as the 13th-seeded Paladins posted a 68-67 win over fourth-seeded Virginia in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday afternoon at the Amway Center.

Pegues might not know what platform shoes are, or who John Travolta is, but he extends Furman’s dance for the first time since platform shoes were all the craze, and the Paladins, while Virginia falls in the NCAA Tournament for the third time in five years to a double-digit mid-major seed, including the second-straight loss in the Big Dance to a 13 seed. The fourth-seeded Cavaliers were 63-58 losers the Mid-American Conference and 13th-seeded Ohio Bobcats back in the 2021 Big Dance.

Pegues’ game-winning dagger was set up by some excellent defending by the ‘Dins, who trapped Cavaliers senior guard Kiehei Clark in the corner, and with a rare moment of indecision, Clark lofted the ball up in the air, and Paladin junior forward Garrett Hien intercepted the errant throw and found Pegues at the right elbow for the NBA triple with just 2.2 seconds remaining.

The ball was quickly inbounded to Armaan Franklin who let a heave from just inside halfcourt, but it was no good off the glass and side of the rim as time expired, allowing the Paladins to have a moment nearly half-a-century in re-creating. Furman improved to 2-6 all-time in tournament action and improved on its school-record wins total, improving to 28-7.

The Cavaliers, who were the Co-ACC champions, conclude their 2022-23 campaign with a 25-8 record. The Paladins move on to face San Diego State, who took down College of Charleston, 63-57, in the second matchup of the first session. It will mark the first-ever meeting between the Paladins and Aztecs.

Things looked bleak for the Paladins when Mike Bothwell fouled out of the contest with11 points and just 6:25 remaining. Bothwell had eclipsed the 2,000-point plateau (2,001 pts) to move into the school’s top five all-time in scoring prior to fouling out and it appeared that would be how his career might end, however, the Paladins rallied. Kadin Shedrick extended Virginia’s lead to 54-48 following a pair of foul shots.

However, Furman’s Jalen Slawson went to work, scoring nine-straight points following his senior roommate’s disqualification due to excessive fouls, giving the Paladins a 57-54 lead following a three-point play the old-fashioned way with 5:02 left. It was Furman’s first lead of the afternoon.

Slawson, who was the SoCon’s Player of the Year, finished with a game-high 19 points and 10 rebounds for his 19th-career double-double. The stat-stuffing Slawson also added four assists and a steal. He surpassed 1,500 points in his career in the same game that Bothwell eclipsed 2,000.

The game would see-saw back and fourth, with the Paladins maintaining a 1-3 point led over the next three-and-a-half minutes until Reece Beekman was fouled on a three-pointer with 1:37 left. He knocked down a pair of foul shots to give Virginia the lead back, at 64-63. The Cavaliers eventually extended their lead to four (67-63) following a Kiehei Clark foul shot with 19 seconds remaining. Cue the drama.

Then Pegues drove hard to the basket before dishing to Hien, who went in for a dunk, but was fouled by Shedrick. The 55% foul shooter calmly knocked down both shots with 12.2 seconds left. The Paladins then pressured Virginia on the ensuing inbounds pass, with Pegues and Marcus Foster, forcing Clark, who had no timeouts left, to aimlessly throw the ball up, which was then intercepted by Hien and then converted by Pegues on the three-pointer with 2.2 seconds remaining.

The Paladins were able to overcome a 32-27 halftime deficit and were able to overcome as much as a 12-point deficit in the second half to advance in the tournament.

Slawson was joined in double figures by Foster (14 pts), Bothwell (11 pts), and Pegues (11 pts). With his game-winning triple, Pegues recorded his eighth-straight double-figure scoring effort, and the SoCon Tournament Most Outstanding Player has now posted double digits in the score column in 16 of his past 17 games.

Virginia was led in the contest by 15 points and 13 rebounds from Shedrick.

Postgame Notes:

–Furman evened its all-time record against Virginia, 1-1.

–Furman improved to 2-6 all-time in the NCAA Tournament

–Furman’s only other win in the NCAA Tournament came on March 9, 1974, as the Paladins were able to claim what was a 75-67 win over South Carolina on that particular occasion.

–The win by the Paladins sets up a 12:10 p.m. EST matchup against No. 5 seed and regular-season Mountain West Conference champion San Diego State (28-6) in what will mark the first-ever matchup between the two teams.

Jalen Slawson recorded his 19th-career double-double and now has eclipsed the 1,500-point total for his career. He currently has 1,501 points in his career. With 11 points Thursday, Mike Bothwell became the fifth player in school history and first in two decades to score 2,000 points in his career, with 2,001 points entering Saturday’s Round of 32 game vs. San Diego St. The last player to score 2,000 points in a career for the Paladins was Karim Souchu (2,014 career points), accomplishing that feat from 2000-03.

–Furman has now 15 of its past 16 games, including notching its seventh-straight win.

–Bob Richey improved to 4-13 against power six conference foes, which included his second this season, with the Paladins having already defeated South Carolina (W, 79-60) back in the Charleston Classic in November.

–Since the start of the 2017-18 season, head coach Bob Richey has defeated No. 8 Villanova (2018), Louisville (2021), South Carolina (2022) and now No. 14 Virginia (2023).

–Prior to his game-winning three-pointer against the Cavaliers with 2.2 seconds remaining, it marked the Pegues first make since the overtime, 83-80, SoCon semifinal win over Western Carolina.

–It was the first win in the NCAA Tournament for the Southern Conference since 2019, when No. 7 seed Wofford defeated No. 10 Seton Hall.

–JP Pegues has now scored in double figures in 16 of his last 17 games, including eight-straight.

–It was the 116th win in the careers of both Mike Bothwell and Jalen Slawson, which is a school record.

–Furman won its 181st game since the start of the 2015-16 season, which is the most among SoCon programs during that time frame.

–Bob Richey won his 139th game as the head coach of the Paladins, Richey needs just four more wins to surpass the late Joe Williams for second on the all-time wins ledger at the program, with 143 victories. Lyles Alley is Furman’s all-time wins leader, posting 248 wins in two decades as the program’s head coach from 1946-66.

Full postgame press conference (Furman and Virginia)

Published by soconjohn

I am a lover of all things SoCon, and I have had a passion to write about, follow and tell the world about this great conference for pretty much my entire life. While I do love the SoCon, and live in the SoCon city, which is home to the Furman Paladins, have a passion for sports in general, with college football and college hoops topping the list.

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