JP Pegues of Nashville was the hero for Furman basketball as March Madness was in full bloom on Thursday.
The sophomore guard helped No. 13 Furman (28-7) execute the 68-67 upset victory over No. 4-seed Virginia (25-8) at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. Pegues made a 3-pointer with 2.4 seconds remaining to put the Paladins ahead.
Coach Tony Bennett offered his thoughts on the game, emphasizing the agony of a disappointing result that so nearly went the other way for Virginia.
“You feel like ‘We got it, we got it’, and then all of a sudden in a moment’s notice it changes at the end,” Bennett said. “That’s tough.”
Despite the defeat, Bennett saw an outstanding performance from junior forward Kadin Shedrick. After not having started a game in over two months, Bennett inserted the junior into the first five after multiple impressive efforts in the ACC Tournament. Shedrick repaid Bennett’s faith in grand fashion, totaling 15 points, a season-high 13 rebounds and four blocks.
“I thought he Shedrick played terrific,” Bennett said. I thought Kadin really responded, stuck his free throws and played good, tough basketball. I was happy for him and proud of him.”
Shedrick was critical for Virginia right from the jump, swatting a layup attempt from junior forward Garrett Hien and converting on his own layup inside. That was the story for the Cavaliers throughout the first half, as all 13 of Virginia’s first-period field goals came from inside the three-point arc.
Despite not connecting on a triple in the opening 20 minutes, the Cavaliers never trailed before heading for the break. Graduate student forward Jayden Gardner got Virginia going with two early baskets, and when the Cavaliers’ defense inevitably turned up the heat, they only continued to pull away from Furman.
The lead grew as large as 10 following a layup by freshman guard Ryan Dunn with 11:15 to play, and even after a serious push from the Paladins that brought the score to 23-22, Virginia stopped the bleeding before the tide turned completely.
Junior guard Reece Beekman aided the Cavaliers in that task, hitting multiple tough shots to emphasize an 8-0 run that sent Virginia up 31-22 with 2:34 remaining.
“This team’s done a great job making history all year so Saturday’s going to be another chance to make history, and this team has performed the best under the brightest lights all year,” Furman forward Jalen Slawson said. “We played well in [the Southern Conference] championship, but we played better today. Imagine if we go play better Saturday.”
For Virginia (25-8) it was a reminder of another heartbreaking first-round loss. Thursday’s game came on the five-year anniversary of their loss to UMBC, the first time a 16 seed has beaten a 1 seed. The Cavaliers rebounded to win the national title in 2019 but have lost in the first round their past two tournament appearances.
It was also a heartbreaking moment for Virginia guard Kihei Clark, who got caught in a trap on the baseline and threw an errant downcourt pass that Hien intercepted. Virginia still had a timeout remaining but neither Clark nor coach Tony Bennett called one.
“Couldn’t see out of it,” Clark said. “Saw Reece Beekman going back a little bit and then saw Jayden Gardner down there. Just tried to throw it up.
After the made free throws by Hien, Furman set up a trapping full court press. Clark inbounded the ball to Beekman, who immediately passed it back to Clark. With eight seconds left, Clark attempted to heave the ball to Shedrick who was standing at midcourt, but the pass was intercepted by Hien. Hien quickly passed the ball to Pegues, who drilled his first and only 3 of the game with 2.4 seconds remaining.
Trailing 68-67, Virginia opted to use its final timeout. The Cavaliers inbounded the ball to Beekman who was already on the run and threw up a deep contested 3-pointer as time expired, but it kicked off the back of the iron as the horn sounded.
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