Kihei Clark sat in the locker room watching video on his phone, trying to figure out how Virginia could have avoided another early exit from the NCAA Tournament.
Five years to the day after losing as a No. 1 seed to 16th-seeded UMBC, the Cavaliers were eliminated in the first round as the higher-seeded team again Thursday — this time, falling 68-67 to 13th-seeded Furman.
Virginia hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since its 2019 triumph over Texas Tech for the title. Clark’s bad pass was intercepted by Garrett Hien in the closing seconds, leading to a wide-open 3-pointer that JP Pegues sank without hesitation.
Clark starred as a freshman on Virginia’s 2019 national title-winning team. His long career with the Cavaliers had a much more unsatisfying conclusion.
So, what would he have done differently?
“Call timeout, maybe could have threw it to Armaan (Franklin) on the right wing maybe,” Clark said. “He was open. Couldn’t see. It was a good trap.”
Coach Tony Bennett wasn’t surprised Clark patiently answered questions from reporters.
“This is part of the game. I’ve used this line before, but when you step between the lines, you take the good and you take the hard with it. You try to handle them both with dignity and respect,” Bennett said.
“I’ve loved coaching him in his career. He had the most amazing assist to get us to a Final Four. We would not be in this spot without him, all the success,” Bennett added. “He’s had an unbelievable career. You always look to that last moment, and there’s so many what-ifs and who knows.”
Making their first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 43 years, the Paladins (28-7) advanced to the second round in the South Region, where they will play fifth-seeded San Diego State (28-6) on Saturday. The Aztecs held off No. 12 seed Charleston 63-57.
“All year we’ve been saying that this team just knows how to win. ... It’s an unbelievable moment,” Furman coach Bob Richey said.
“This game is — interesting might be the word I’d use,” Bennett said. “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. That’s tough.”
Furman earned its first tournament berth since 1980 by beating Chattanooga for the Southern Conference title, capping a season-long quest to redeem itself after losing the league’s automatic berth to the Mocs in overtime on a 35-foot buzzer-beater last year.
“I couldn’t help but go back when I saw the shot in the air to a year ago. It’s just a reminder, like we said it all year, count on joy, and you don’t know timing of things. ... This team has persevered, and they did it today,” Richey said. “It’s a microcosm of what they learned, and they just keep reliving the lesson and keep finding ways.”
In the aftermath of last year’s disappointment, Jalen Slawson and his best friend, Mike Bothwell, both decided to return for their fifth seasons with the Paladins. Slawson took over the game when Bothwell fouled out with just over six minutes remaining, scoring nine consecutive points to turn a 54-48 deficit into Furman’s first lead of the game, 57-54, with 5:02 to go.
Slawson, the Southern Conference player of the year, finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.
“I told Mike that we weren’t going to let today be his last time putting a jersey on, and I know if roles were reversed, the same thing would have happened,” Slawson said. “It didn’t have to just be me. But the game was up there for the taking, and these guys told me they believed in me and told me I was being a little bit passive, told me to be a little bit more aggressive.”
The winning shot was Pegues’ only 3 of the game.
“As soon as I saw it go into Garrett Hien’s hands, I was like, I want the ball. I feel like those are moments I’ve created my whole life, and I feel like I’m built for,” Pegues said. “I had full belief that it was going in, and it did.”
Reece Beekman’s deep 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the rim and Virginia (25-8) was eliminated in the first round as the higher-seeded team for the third time in its past four NCAA tournaments. The Cavaliers were also a No. 4 seed two years ago, when they were beaten by 13th-seeded Ohio.
Kadin Shedrick led the Cavaliers with 15 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks. Beekman scored 14 and Isaac McKneely added 12.
Marcus Foster scored 14 points and Pegues and Bothwell both finished with 11 for Furman.
(1) Kansas 96, (16) Howard 68: In Des Moines, Iowa, Jalen Wilson had 20 points and seven rebounds for No. 1 seed and defending national champion Kansas, which allowed absent and recovering coach Bill Self to rest a bit more comfortably during a victory over Howard in a West Region first-round game.
Self is recovering from a heart procedure.
“He wished us good luck and told us to go out and do what we do,” Wilson said.
Gradey Dick had 19 points and 11 rebounds in the freshman’s first NCAA Tournament game, his first career double-double. K.J. Adams Jr. scored 13 points and Dajuan Harris Jr. added 11 points, seven assists and four steals for the Jayhawks (28-7), who will play No. 8 seed Arkansas in the second round on Saturday.
Kansas, which has won 16 consecutive first-round games, is aiming to become the first repeat national champion in 16 years.
“He was terrific, absolutely terrific,” coach Bob Huggins said. “We wouldn’t have been able to stay in the game without him. That last shot, it looked like it grazed the front of the rim. He was an inch away from winning the game for us.”(1) Houston 63, (16) Northern Kentucky 52: In Birmingham, Alabama, With All-American Marcus Strasser watching from the bench, top-seeded Houston shook off Northern Kentucky.
Chants of “NKU!” and “Overrated!” filled Legacy Arena as the Norse trailed by only three at halftime and made it 36-all with under 16 minutes to go against the Cougars (32-3).
But Houston pulled away behind 16 points from Jarace Walker, advancing to face ninth-seeded Auburn on Saturday.
(2) UCLA 86, (15) UNC Asheville 53: In Sacramento, California, Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored 17 points and UCLA raced out to a fast start and never looked back in a victory over UNC Asheville.
The second-seeded Bruins (30-5) scored the first 14 points of the game and rolled from there.
Shy Odom had 15 points and eight rebounds and Steve Settle III added 13 points for the Bison (22-13), who were making the program’s first tournament appearance since 1992 in front of Vice President Kamala Harris, a Howard alumna.
The Jayhawks started their NCAA-record 33rd consecutive tournament appearance with assistant coach Norm Roberts running the show. The 60-year-old Self, who’s in his 20th season at Kansas, had a procedure to treat blocked arteries in his heart last week that prevented him from coaching in the Big 12 Tournament.
The Jayhawks lost in the Big 12 title game to Texas, but their 15-6 record in Quadrant 1 games that the NCAA categorizes for selection criteria was unmatched in the country, an impressive season from a new-look team that lost most of its best players from last year.
The Jayhawks won the regular-season title in a stacked conference, a testament to Self’s acumen and the versatility of this team led by the Big 12 Player of the Year in Wilson, a rising star in Dick, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in point guard Harris, and Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar Jr.
“The Big 12 prepared us for moments like this and games like this,” forward K.J. Adams Jr. said.
The Jayhawks aren’t that deep, but they move and share the ball at a dizzying pace that was ultimately too much for the Bison to keep up with — although they tried.
“They played faster than I think even we thought they would,” Roberts said.
Howard took the lead five times in the first half, but Kansas always snapped back — often with a well-placed hand in a passing lane for a steal and a fast-break finish. Then there were the alley-oops, with Harris and McCullar each delivering a textbook lob off the drive to Ernest Udeh Jr. for a rim-jarring dunk in the first half. Harris found Adams for one, too.
Howard totaled 18 turnovers and missed 15 of 20 shots from 3-point range in the second half.
“There was a part of it where I was pretty exhausted, but those are the most fun games when you’re going up and down, and anything can happen,” Dick said.
Howard’s rare appearance on the big stage came exactly five years after UMBC’s takedown of Virginia, the only time a No. 16 seed has ever beaten a No. 1. The Bison were the 149th team to try.
(2) Texas 81, (15) Colgate 61: Sir’Jabari Rice scored 23 points and No. 2 seed Texas shut down sharpshooting Colgate for a victory.
Rice made five of his seven 3-pointers in the first half, helping the Longhorns get off to a fast start. Marcus Carr finished with 17 points and Dylan Disu had 17 points and nine rebounds. Texas (27-8) shot 13 for 23 from 3-point rang.
Coach Kenneth Blakeney, whose team went 4-29 in his first season in 2019-20, brought a confident team. Elijah Hawkins hit an early 3-pointer and pointed a finger to his forearm to signal ice in his veins. Kobe Dickson flexed his right arm after muscling in a layup. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions just weren’t able to match the Jayhawks’ speed and athleticism.
“When you play a team like Kansas, they capitalize on all of our mistakes,” Settle said. “We left a lot of meat on the bone in the first half.”
(5) San Diego State 63, (12) Charleston 57: In Orlando, Florida, Matt Bradley scored 17 points and made play after play down the stretch, including hitting two free throws in the final minute, and No. 5 seed San Diego State held on to beat 12th-seeded College of Charleston.
The victory was a measure of redemption for Bradley, whose mistake last year against Creighton proved costly in the three-point loss.
“I’m just thinking positive things,” said Bradley, who insisted he had no flashbacks to the gaffe. “I’m looking at the bench and everybody trusts me now. Nobody side-eying. I think I have full trust in my teammates and in my coaches on making that free throw, so it felt really good.”
The senior provided pivotal plays in this one, helping the Aztecs (28-6) win their first game in the Big Dance since 2015. They ended a four-game losing streak in the tournament and snapped an 11-game skid for the Mountain West Conference.
“Everybody makes us aware of (the losing streak),” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said. “The thing that you can’t lose sight of is every team and every season is different. You know, there is no history.
“This team is creating its own history right now. ... We’re not worried about past failures or successes. We’re only focused on the moment, and that’s how you win games.”
The Cougars (31-4) lost for the first time in six weeks and have not won an NCAA tournament game since 1997.
The Aztecs advanced to face 13th-seeded Furman in the South Region at the Amway Center on Saturday. The Paladins used a late steal and 3-pointer to stun No. 4 seed Virginia four years to the day since the Cavaliers became the first and only No. 1 seed to lose in the opening round.
Charleston looked to provide another upset in Orlando, but coach Pat Kelsey’s scrappy team simply couldn’t do enough down the stretch.
San Diego State did.
Bradley scored on a driving layup coming out of a timeout with 2:37 to play, breaking a tie and ending a nearly 3-minute scoring drought for the Aztecs. Micah Parrish followed with a huge 3-pointer, giving them a little breathing room in the final minutes.
Charleston looked like it might be able to rally, but Jaylon Scott was called for a foul as Bradley shot a 3. He hit two of three from the charity stripe to essentially seal it.
Ante Brzovic led Charleston with 12 points and eight rebounds. Ryan Larson added 11 points, and seventh-year senior Dalton Bolon finished his college career with 10 points.
(5) Duke 74, (12) Oral Roberts 51: In Orlando, Florida, Jeremy Roach scored a career-high 23 points, and No. 5 seed Duke beat Oral Roberts 74-51 on Thursday in the school’s first NCAA Tournament game since Jon Scheyer took over as Blue Devils coach.
Dariq Whitehead added 13 points to lead the Blue Devils (27-8), winners of the ACC Tournament.
(7) Northwestern 75, (10) Boise State 67: In Sacramento, California, Boo Buie scored 22 points to lead Northwestern to a win in the school’s second appearance ever in the NCAA Tournament, defeating Boise State.
The seventh-seeded Wildcats (22-11) previously made it to the Big Dance in 2017, and just like that time, they made sure they wouldn’t be one-and-done.
(8) Maryland 67, (9) West Virginia 65: In Birmingham, Alabama, Julian Reese and Maryland topped West Virginia after Kedrian Johnson missed a final heave at the buzzer, sending the eighth-seeded Terrapins into the second round of the South Region.
Maryland (22-12) trailed by 12 early on, but West Virginia didn’t really take advantage of the Terrapins having more turnovers (six) than points (four).
“I look at everything in a positive way,” said coach Kevin Willard, in his first season at Maryland after leading Seton Hall to the Big Dance. “I figured if that’s the best they can do, we’re in pretty good shape.”
Johnson led all scorers with 27 points, only to have his potential winner glance off the rim as the horn sounded.
When the ball was in the air, Johnson thought he was about to become a March Madness hero.
“For sure,” he said. “Every shot I took today, I thought it had a chance to go in.”
Reese had 17 points and nine rebounds for Maryland, which will meet top-seeded Alabama on Saturday. The Crimson Tide cruised past Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 96-75.
The 8-9 matchup between Maryland and the Mountaineers (19-15) lived up to its down-to-the-wire billing.
Maryland bounced back from the early 16-4 deficit to take a 32-30 lead at halftime. Neither team could break away over the final 20 minutes.
“It just shows our character,” said Hakim Hart, who had 15 points in Maryland’s balanced offensive effort. “We’re going to keep fighting.”
A traveling call on Jahmir Young gave West Virginia a chance to tie it with a 3-pointer. But the Mountaineers could not find anyone open beyond the arc, forcing Tre Mitchell to bank it in for two under the basket.
Young was fouled after the inbounds and made only one of two free throws. West Virginia got the ball in the hands of the guy it wanted, but Johnson came up short on the buzzer-beater.