College Basketball

March Madness 2023: Furman stuns Virginia on late clutch play for first NCAA Tournament win since 1974

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Furman pulled off the first upset of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday when the No. 13 seed Paladins stunned No. 4 seed Virginia 68-67 behind a 3-pointer from JP Pegues with 2.2 seconds left. UVa led 50-38 with under 12 minutes to play but wilted late, committing a critical turnover that led directly to Furman’s go-ahead shot.

Garrett Hien made two free throws for Furman with 12 seconds left to bring the Paladins within 67-65. Then, they promptly trapped Virginia guard Kihei Clark in the corner, forcing the undersized veteran into panic mode. Clark unleashed an ill-advised, one-handed pass that Hien caught for Furman at midcourt with about six seconds left.Β 

From there, he quickly passed ahead to Pegues for a shot that will go down in Furman lore. It was the first made 3-pointer of the game for Pegues, but it was a fitting way for the Paladins to steal the victory, which is the program’s first in the NCAA Tournament since 1974.

Furman entered ranking No. 20 nationally in made 3-pointers per game while Virginia ranked No. 251. The Paladins made 10 of 28 shots from beyond the arc while the Cavaliers made just 2 of 12. Virginia partially made up for the discrepancy with a 32-22 edge in paint points but finished the game just 4 of 14 from the floor over the final 11:08 as Furman got hot.

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Pegues entered with 17 or more points in each of his last five games. He finished with just 11 Thursday, but he turned out to be the hero as the Paladins have now won 15 of their past 16 games. Furman will play either No. 5 seed San Diego State or No. 12 seed Charleston in the second round on Saturday.

Virginia’s misery

Virginia’s Reece Beekman got off a shot at the buzzer for UVa that would have been a game-winner, but it ricocheted off the backboard and rim as the Paladins rushed onto the court in celebration. Double-digit seed opponents celebrating is becoming a familiar sight for the Cavaliers.

Another early exit

Year NCAA Tournament result
2018 Lost to No. 16 seed UMBC in first round
2019 Won NCAA Tournament
2020 No NCAA Tournament held
2021 Lost to No. 13 seed Ohio in first round
2022 Didn’t make NCAA Tournament
2023 Lost to No. 13 seed Furman

The loss marks the latest first-round disappointment for the Cavaliers, who also lost as a No. 4 seed in the first round during the 2021 NCAA Tournament. UVa also became the first No. 1 seed to ever lose against a No. 16 seed in 2018 when it lost to UMBC. UVa went on to win the 2019 national title after that embarrassing defeat but has not won an NCAA Tournament game since. Virginia is now just 3-4 in its last seven games against double-digit seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

Furman’s elation

The win validates Furman’s rise as a sneaky-good mid-major program under sixth-year coach Bob Richey. The 39-year-old former Furman assistant has won 20 games five times, with the lone exception being the 2020-21 season that was impacted by COVID-19. Furman’s NCAA Tournament hopes were dashed last season on a buzzer-beater by Chattanooga in the SoCon Tournament title game, but the Paladins have been knocking on the door of the Big Dance virtually every season under Richey.

Finally, the program broke through by beating Chattanooga in this season’s SoCon title game after surviving an overtime game with Western Carolina in the semifinals to avoid the heartbreak of 2022. By winning the SoCon Tournament, this team reached the Big Dance for the first time since 1980, and it turns out the Paladins will be sticking around.

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Publish Date:2023-03-17 10:11:29

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