The Orlando games to kick off March Madness did not disappoint, with three great games on Thursday.
(13) Furman took home an upset victory over (4) Virginia, 68-67. (5) Duke rolled over (12) Oral Roberts, 74-51. (5) San Diego State and (4) Tennessee held off late runs from (12) College of Charleston and (13) Louisiana to advance to the round of 32.
Takeaway #1: ‘Gues to victory for Furman
Despite a double-digit deficit in 13-seeded Furman’s matchup with 4-seed Virginia, the Paladins never let up, using a double-double from forward Jalen Slawson to take the lead with 5 minutes left. That didn’t last long, however, with Virginia hitting a couple of late free throws to go up 4 points with under 20 seconds left.
The Paladins hit two free throws with 12 seconds left, forcing Virginia to inbound the ball. Kihei Clark backed himself into the coffin corner before attempting to blindly throw the ball towards Virginia’s basket. It landed right into the hands of Furman’s Garrett Hien, who passed it to JP Pegues. Pegues, who was 2-for-8 from the field at the time, launched a three-pointer that hit the bottom of the net with 2 seconds left. Reece Beekman got the ball back for the Cavaliers with a chance to win at the buzzer but the attempt missed as Furman advanced.
(13) Furman plays (5) San Diego State at 12:10 p.m. ET on Saturday in the round of 32.
Takeaway #2: Size matters inside against Cougars
The College of Charleston entered March Madness as a trendy upset pick against the Aztecs of San Diego State. While the Cougars jumped out to an early 13-6 lead, San Diego State rode a 32-29 lead into halftime, mostly due to the physicality inside the paint on offense. While the Aztecs led as much as 45-36, the Cougars tied the game at 53-53 with just over 3 minutes to go. But a Micah Parrish dagger three-pointer with 1:44 put San Diego State up by 5, a lead which the Cougars could not recover from.
The Aztecs ended up out-rebounding the Cougars by a margin of 40-34, as well as shooting 50% from two-point range.
(5) San Diego State plays (13) Furman at 12:10 p.m. ET on Saturday in the round of 32.
Takeaway #3: Oral Roberts no match for the Blue Devils
Given Oral Roberts’ run to the Sweet Sixteen in 2021 and the relative strength of this year’s team, expectations were that they would give Duke a fight Thursday. However, that never materialized. Duke began the game on a 15-0 run over the first 8 minutes of game time, and that was enough for the Blue Devils to cruise through the rest of the game.
Jeremy Roach led the way with 23 points, and Duke held star guard Max Abmas to just 12 points. Dariq Whitehead added 13 points off the bench.
(5) Duke plays (4) Tennessee at 2:40 p.m. ET on Saturday in the round of 32.
Takeaway #4: D gets the job done for the Vols
Tennessee’s offense had been struggling as of late, ever since point guard Zakai Zeigler tore his ACL against Arkansas. Entering their round of 64 game against Louisiana, they had been lacking an offensive identity while remaining stout on defense. That’s what carried the Vols to victory Thursday against the Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana, holding them to 55 points in a 58-55 win for Tennessee.
Despite 18 turnovers offensively for the Vols and 11 assists across the aisle from Louisiana guard Themus Fulks, Tennessee collected 33 rebounds for a 33-27 margin and recorded 4 blocks as they advanced.
(4) Tennessee plays (5) Duke at 2:40 p.m. ET on Saturday in the round of 32.