J.P. Pegues

Furman is playing in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament for the 1st time in 43 years.

Okay, that’s old news since the Paladins knocked off Virginia, 68-67, on Thursday.

And it’s on YouTube forever, as attested to by much of Frank Selvy’s 100-point game on Feb. 13, 1954, also residing there in glorious black and white.

It was historic. Another win would be unprecedented.

Furman is playing in the 2nd round for the 1st time in 49 years, and if the Paladins, the regional’s 13th seed, beats 5th-seeded San Diego State, it will be the 1st time in history.

As Gertrude Stein said, “History takes time. History makes memory.”

Head coach Bob Richey thinks his team is on hallowed hardwood already.

Timing of life doesn’t always go how you want, but this team has persevered, and it’s a microsm of what they have learned, and they just keep reliving the lesson and keep finding ways (to win),” he said at Thursday’s post-game media conference.

The lesson? The Paladins’ 2021-22 season ended in a long shot that drained the other way, which is why they were not where they are now. Whose heart didn’t skip a beat on Thursday when Virginia’s Reece Beekman shot from about the same distance, on the opposite side of another court, as the one by Chattanooga’s David Jean-Baptiste that lived in Furman infamy until Beekman’s bounced away?


Mike Bothwell

Fate and destiny changed sides. Furman came from behind without leading scorer Mike Bothwell, who had fouled out, and by using a 1-3-1 zone defense of which Richey’s teams are not noted.

One for the ages has another one Saturday.

The 2nd-round game, once again at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., begins at 12:10 p.m. and is to be televised on CBS.

Furman (28-7) achieved the 2nd Tournament victory in school history with the spectacular victory over the 4th-seeded Cavaliers. The Paladins used a 19-4 2nd-half run to erase a 12-point deficit but still trailed 67-63 with 12 seconds to go. Junior Garrett Hien connected on a pair of free throws and stole a long pass near midcourt as the Paladins pressed and trapped on UVA’s inbounds pass. Hien found Pegues on the right wing, and the Nashville, Tenn., native drained his triple with 2.4 seconds left to provide the margin of the 1st Furman win in the tourney since a 75-67 opening-round win over South Carolina on March 9, 1974.


Jalen Slawson

Fifth-year senior Jalen Slawson, who scored 9 straight points during the Paladins’ 2nd-half rally, led the way with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists to record his 9th double-double of the season. Redshirt-junior Marcus Foster connected on 3 2nd-half triples to provide 14 points, and Pegues and Mike Bothwell added 11 points apiece.

Furman proved emphatically on Thursday that it is more than proud to be there.

Bothwell, the Southern Conference’s leading scorer, fouled out with 6:25 remaining but not before scoring his 2,000th career point. The Cleveland Heights, Ohio, native became just the 5th player in school history to cross that barrier.

Pegues, left off three all-conference teams selected by Southern Conference head coaches, has not been snubbed since.

The victory over No. 14 Virginia marked Furman’s 1st win over a ranked opponent since defeating a 76-68 No. 8 Villanova on Nov. 17, 2018. Furman is the 1st SoCon school seeded No. 13 or lower to win an NCAA Tournament game since No. 14 seed Chattanooga reached the Sweet Sixteen in 1997.

The air is already rarefied when this one commences.

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San Diego State (28-6) advanced with a 63-57 victory over College of Charleston on Thursday. The Aztecs, ranked No. 18 in the Associated Press Top 25, won the Mountain West Conference. Saturday’s game will be the 1st meeting will be the 1st ever.

Only one Aztec, senior Matt Bradley (13.1), scores in double figures, but seven average more than 7. Only Jaedon Ladee (5.3) averages more than 5 rebounds. San Diego State’s losses to date are to Arizona, Arkansas, St. Mary’s, New Mexico, Nevada and Boise State. Six made the NCAAs. New Mexico went to the NIT.

The winner advances to face the winner of No. 1 seed Alabama and No. 8 seed Maryland in the Sweet Sixteen on Friday, March 24, at KFC Yum Center in Louisville, Ky.

The radio broadcast of Saturday’s contest will be available on The Fan Upstate at 97.7 FM and 1330 AM beginning at 11:30 a.m. The live stream of the broadcast can be heard by downloading The Varsity Network app.

Pegues, Thursday’s hero, said, “We knew, going into the game those (Virginia) people were high-level defenders, and, uh, me personally, I’m a steady guy.”

That’s what it took. It’s going to take it again.


Clinton native Monte Dutton is Furman-educated and has been a sportswriter for most of four decade. At DHK Sports LLC and its three website, Monte is committed to filling the void in local sports coverage created by the decline of other media.