Furman seeks to turn a No. 13 seed into its first berth in the Sweet 16 when it faces fifth-seeded San Diego State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament’s South Region on Saturday in Orlando, Fla.
Furman (28-7), playing in its first NCAA Tournament in 43 years, knocked off fourth-seeded Virginia when JP Pegues’ 3-pointer with 2.4 seconds left lifted the Paladins to a 68-67 victory Thursday. It was Furman’s second NCAA Tournament win and first since 1974.
San Diego State (28-6) held on to beat 12th-seeded College of Charleston 63-57 after the Cougars rallied from a nine-point deficit to tie the game at 53-all with 3:27 left on Thursday.
Furman and San Diego State are playing to face the winner of top-seeded Alabama and eighth-seeded Maryland in the Sweet 16 on Friday in Louisville, Ky.
The Paladins’ school-record 28th win of the season was as dramatic as it gets.
Trailing 67-63 with 19 seconds left, Furman’s Garrett Hein sank a pair of free throws to cut the margin to two with 12 seconds to go.
But Virginia’s Kihei Clark, trapped near the Cavaliers’ baseline, launched a deep pass that Hein intercepted. He found Pegues wide open on the right wing for what proved to be the game-winning shot after Virginia’s Reece Beekman’s long 3-pointer bounced off the backboard as time expired.
“Coach (Bob) Richey talked to us last night after we got back from dinner, and he was saying he didn’t want us to forget about this moment,” said Furman guard Mike Bothwell, who averages a team-high 17.8 points per game after scoring 11 against Virginia. “We’ll have that moment for the rest of our lives, (but we can’t) hold on to it too long where we can’t focus on the next task ahead and miss out on the next opportunity.”
Jalen Slawson had 19 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, while Marcus Foster added 14 points. Pegues and Bothwell finished with 11 points apiece for Furman. The Paladins have won 15 of their last 16 games.
The Aztecs’ first-round win was less suspenseful.
After the College of Charleston tied the game at 53-53 with 3:27 left, Matt Bradley made a layup and Micah Parrish followed with a 3-pointer for a 58-53 lead with 1:45 to go.
Bradley was fouled on a 3-pointer and made two free throws to make it 60-55 with 25 seconds left before Adam Seiko and Parrish secured the win at the free-throw line.
“We’re going to use it as motivation to come out here and win every game that we can, especially close games,” San Diego State guard Lamont Butler said. “We take pride in taking care of the ball and just concentrating in the close games like that. We’ve got a lot of guys that can make big plays, so we’re just going to keep doing that and keep winning.”
Bradley scored 17 points, while Keshad Johnson, Jaedon LeDee and Aguek Arop scored eight points apiece for San Diego State, which is a win away from its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2014. The Aztecs lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in each of their three previous appearances.
Bradley averages a team-high 13.1 points per game, while Darrion Trammell chips in 9.4 points and a team-high 3.3 assists per game. Butler averages 8.5 points per game, with Nathan Mensah averaging a team-high 5.8 rebounds per game to go along with 6.1 points per game.
–Field Level Media