Thu. Mar 23rd, 2023

ORLANDO, Fla. – Within the huddle, after fouling out with 6:25 to play, Furman guard Mike Bothwell instructed his teammates they’d discover a option to win their first-round NCAA match sport in opposition to Virginia.

Fellow fifth-year senior Jalen Slawson instructed Bothwell he wouldn’t let their run finish.

“I instructed Mike that we weren’t going to let at this time be his final time placing a jersey on,” Slawson mentioned after.

As a substitute, stunningly, it could be the top for the fourth-seeded Cavaliers, their third first-round exit of their previous 4 NCAA appearances. Since 2012, it’s the sixth time Tony Bennett’s group has failed to flee the match’s opening weekend.

No. This upset doesn’t rival the 2018 loss to UMBC. That loss, the primary ever by a No. 1 seed in opposition to a 16, is unmatched for its historic significance and turned out to be the prelude to Virginia’s outstanding 2019 nationwide championship run.

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This 12 months’s UVa group had been up and down all season, at instances a dominant unit fueled by its protection. Early within the 12 months, it seemed like a deadly outdoors taking pictures group, however that didn’t final. Nonetheless, early-season wins in Las Vegas over Baylor and Illinois, adopted by a comeback victory at Michigan, had the Cavaliers trying able to a deep run in March.

That half is much like 2018, when the unheralded Retrievers completely blitzed the match’s prime total seed.

The beautiful a part of Thursday’s collapse is {that a} Virginia group stuffed with veterans and a program with championship pedigree wilted below the strain of March, whereas a mid-major showing within the NCAAs for the primary time since 1980 confirmed them the way it’s completed.

“All 12 months we have been saying that this group simply is aware of learn how to win,” mentioned Furman coach Bob Richey, whose group was pushed by shedding final season’s Southern Convention championship sport on a 35-foot heave on the buzzer.

Much like UVa in 2019, the Paladins made certain their dream denied was a dream delayed.

And in doing so, they authored one other March nightmare for the Cavaliers.

How? There have been some acquainted culprits, each from this season and from nightmares previous. Thursday’s sport in the end ended after Virginia’s most seasoned participant, fifth-year level guard Kihei Clark, couldn’t deal with Furman’s determined full-court press, when the Paladins trailed by 2 with 7 seconds left.

Trapped close to the baseline, unable to find an official to name timeout, and anxious Furman may get a tie-up with the possession arrow in its favor, Clark flung an ill-advised cross towards midcourt, the place it was picked off by Garrett Hien, who handed it again into the offensive finish.

JP Pegues sank the game-winning 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds to play.

The difficulty with the entice evoked painful recollections of the 2016 Elite Eight, when it was Syracuse’s press that shook, rattled and in the end shocked UVa, simply when it was on the doorstep of the Last 4.

This system’s historical past, after all, had no influence on this newest loss. However this 12 months’s group’s flaws actually did. A foul free throw taking pictures group for a lot of the season, Virginia’s Clark and freshman Isaac McKneely every missed free throws within the closing 35 seconds, each instances with probabilities to present UVa a 5-point lead.

However lengthy earlier than these closing, painful moments, the Cavaliers had ceded management of the competition, unable to reply when Richey and the Paladins threw a strategic curveball their means. Furman switched to a zone protection, simply previous the halfway level within the second half.

After getting drives to the basket and finishes on the rim for nearly the primary half-hour, Virginia seemed flummoxed by Furman’s 1-3-1. It’s true, the Paladins had not confirmed the zone a lot, if in any respect, this season. Bennett mentioned the Paladins performed zone lower than 1% of the time going into Thursday.

Nonetheless, absolutely Clark – the ACC’s all-time winningest participant – and his veteran teammates might deal with it.

“I really feel just like the zone slowed us down slightly bit, took us out of rhythm,” junior guard Reece Beekman mentioned. “I really feel like that was a turning level within the sport for them, after which they executed that fairly effectively.”

The group that hadn’t been there, hadn’t completed that, received the job completed. The group that, at its greatest, may need been a Candy 16 group, goes house early. Once more.​

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By Samy