Pegues, Furman hoping to extend March Madness stay

Furman forward Jalen Slawson (20) reacts after making a three-point shot against Virginia during the second half of a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Orlando, Fla. Furman beat Virginia 68-67. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

ORLANDO, Fla. — JP Pegues has watched the shot over and over. A March Madness memory for Furman for all time.

In Pegues’ wildest dreams, he never imagined himself becoming an instant star. But the 6-foot-1 sophomore rocketed into notoriety when his 3-pointer took down No. 4 seed Virginia in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.


“It’s been at least 50 times I’ve watched that specific clip,” Pegues said Friday. “I was just so numb to the fact at first. I couldn’t believe it.”

It began to sink in when his cell phone kept ringing and the team returned to a rousing reception at its hotel.

Furman’s 68-67 victory — the school’s first win in the tournament in 49 years — sent the 13th-seeded Paladins (28-7) into Saturday’s second round against San Diego State (28-6), the No. 5 seed in the South Region.

Following Thursday’s win, Furman players and fans celebrated at a hotel, and students partied back home in Greenville, South Carolina. Pegues stopped answering his phone long enough to enjoy the moment with teammates and family.

“I started to realize how big the moment was. But I also noticed it wasn’t just totally me,” Pegues said. “I don’t want to consider the moment totally about me because at the end of day, I did make the shot but it was a team effort.”

Teammate Mike Bothwell described Pegues as a laid-back guy who will need someone to escort him around campus from here on “because he’s going to get swarmed” when the Paladins’ tournament run ends.

“I don’t know if you guys saw the videos from our campus. The support we had back in Greenville was amazing. … Our student center was packed, people jumping into our lake,” Bothwell said.

“That’s what makes this thing so fun and cool, how the school was really rallying behind us and having fun. So many people have texted me and said I’m getting tickets to come down Saturday.”

Winning in its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1980 thrust the small private college with an enrollment of 2,500 into the national spotlight on Thursday. The university’s athletic Twitter account gained more than 1,000 followers overnight.

Not that sports fans aren’t already familiar with an impressive list of famous Furman graduates that includes 90-year-old Frank Selvy, who set a Division I record that still stands by scoring 100 points in a game.

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