Furman University emerges as a must-watch underdog

▶ Watch Video: Furman stuns Virginia in NCAA tournament upset

March is the month full of madness for thousands of collegiate teams looking to make their mark in NCAA history. 

For fans of South Carolina’s Furman University, Thursday’s tipoff game against the No. 4 seed University of Virginia was the first time they have gotten to see their men’s team dance in the biggest postseason tournament of the year in more than four decades.

“It’s been incredible. I mean, just to see how many people have been waiting for this moment since 1980,” head coach Bob Richey told CBS News. 

For fifth-year senior and Furman forward Jalen Slawson, his time in South Carolina will surely be one to remember. 

“I’m sure in 30 years it’ll be something that I can look back on and say I did that, you know, forever.” Slawson, the Southern Conference’s Player of the Year, said. 

Furman v Virginia Jalen Slawson #20 of the Furman Paladins dunks against the Virginia Cavaliers during the first half in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Amway Center on March 16, 2023 in Orlando, Florida.

ME / Getty Images

The Paladins took to the big stage in Orlando and were in for a fight during their first-round game, in what became a nail-biter for the ages. Faced with a 12-point deficit in the second half, hope was dwindling for the young team. But with time running out, sophomore guard and starter JP Pegues made a catch-and-shoot three-pointer from the wing with 2.3 seconds left on the clock. The Cavaliers took the ball out but had no time left to respond and the game was over. 

That’s how an underdog coach with a very young team found a way to survive and advance. They are now projected to become the Cinderella story of the tournament. 

“What an unbelievable college basketball game,” Richey told CBS News after his team’s win. “All year, we’ve been saying that this team just knows how to win. It’s an unbelievable moment, and give all the glory to God for allowing me to able to lead it, but this is a day, these players found a way.”

The Paladins now must face the no. 5 seed San Diego State after they beat 12th-seeded College of Charleston 63-57 on Thursday.

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