March is the month of madness in the world of college basketball, with thousands of teams looking to make their mark in NCAA history. For the fans of Furman University, Thursday's game against the University of Virginia was the first time in over four decades that they had seen their men's team dance in the biggest postseason tournament of the year.
The Paladins, led by head coach Bob Richey and Southern Conference's Player of the Year, Jalen Slawson, took to the big stage in Orlando and were in for a fight during their first-round game. Facing a 12-point deficit in the second half, hope was dwindling for the young team. However, with time running out, sophomore guard 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.
The underdog coach with a very young team found a way to survive and advance, becoming 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' victory against the No. 4 seed University of Virginia sets the stage for a thrilling match-up against the No. 5 seed San Diego State. The Aztecs beat the 12th-seeded College of Charleston 63-57 on Thursday and are expected to be a tough opponent for the Paladins.
Furman University is a small private university located in Greenville, South Carolina. With a total enrollment of around 3,000 students, the Paladins have proven that they can hold their own against some of the best teams in the nation.
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.”