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Furman upsets Virginia in crazy ending to begin March Madness

Alex Weberby:Alex Weber03/16/23

Five years ago to the day, No. 1 overall seed Virginia looked on with horror in their eyes as the UMBC Retrievers splashed one three after another en route to a 20-point victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament — the first time in tourney history a 16-seed triumphed over a one-seed. Well, five years later, a new generation of Cavaliers experienced that same pain as UVA blew a double-digit second-half lead to lose to Furman after a wild final minute.

Virginia had the ball with free throws to put it up five. Fifth-year senior point guard Kihei Clark missed one of two at the line to leave little hope for the Paladins, who drew a foul on the other end and converted two foul shots of their own with 12 seconds to play to cut the lead to 67-65. Then, Clark received the in bounds pass and launched a high-arching pass way down the court…

But it was intercepted by Furman forward Garrett Hien at mid-court, who immediately found a streaking JP Pegues a few feet behind the three-point arc. Pegues caught the pass from Hein and let a deep ball rip:

Pegues splashed the triple and Virginia called a timeout. After the break, with just over two seconds to play, UVA had Reece Beekman launch a Hail Mary heave, which bounced off the backboard, clanked the rim and missed. Furman Paladins advance!

A really tough moment for Kihei Clark, who was a breakout star as a true freshman on Virginia 2019 team that avenged the UMBC loss by winning the national championship. However, he made a very similar pass to the one above against Purdue during that title run to save the season. After a missed Virginia free throw led to a deep tip-out, Clark sprinted into the backcourt, retrieved the ball and, with under two seconds left, threw a pass from beyond half-court right to Mamadi Diakite, who floated a tying two-pointer to send it to overtime.

Here was that legendary play:

Of course, Virginia won in OT and wound up winning the title, and it would have never been possible without that Hurculean play by Clark. Sometimes you get the glory and sometimes you get the gut-punch. On two similar passes in crucial NCAA Tournament moments throughout his career, Clark found glory on one and the ultimate gut-punch to end his career on the other.

That’s just March Madness for you.