ORLANDO, Fla. – In the huddle, after fouling out with 6:25 to play, Furman guard Mike Bothwell told his teammates they would find a way to win their first-round NCAA tournament game against Virginia.
Fellow fifth-year senior Jalen Slawson told Bothwell he wouldn’t let their run end.
“I told Mike that we weren’t going to let today be his last time putting a jersey on,” Slawson said after.
Instead, stunningly, it would be the end for the fourth-seeded Cavaliers, their third first-round exit in their past four NCAA appearances. Since 2012, it’s the sixth time Tony Bennett’s team has failed to escape the tournament’s opening weekend.
No. This upset doesn’t rival the 2018 loss to UMBC. That loss, the first ever by a No. 1 seed against a 16, is unmatched for its historical significance and turned out to be the prelude to Virginia’s remarkable 2019 national championship run.
This year’s UVa team had been up and down all season, at times a dominant unit fueled by its defense. Early in the year, it looked like a lethal outside shooting team, but that didn’t last. Still, early-season wins in Las Vegas over Baylor and Illinois, followed by a comeback victory at Michigan, had the Cavaliers looking capable of a deep run in March.
That part is similar to 2018, when the unheralded Retrievers absolutely blitzed the tournament’s top overall seed.
The stunning part of Thursday’s collapse is that a Virginia team full of veterans and a program with championship pedigree wilted under the pressure of March, while a mid-major appearing in the NCAAs for the first time since 1980 showed them how it’s done.
“All year we’ve been saying that this team just knows how to win,” said Furman coach Bob Richey, whose team was driven by losing last season’s Southern Conference championship game on a 35-foot heave at the buzzer.
Similar to UVa in 2019, the Paladins made sure their dream denied turned into a dream delayed.
And in doing so, they authored another March nightmare for the Cavaliers.
How? There were some familiar culprits, both from this season and from nightmares past. Thursday’s game ultimately ended after Virginia’s most seasoned player, fifth-year point guard Kihei Clark, couldn’t handle Furman’s desperate full-court press, when the Paladins trailed by 2 with 7 seconds left.
Trapped near the baseline, unable to locate an official to call timeout, and worried Furman might get a tie-up with the possession arrow in its favor, Clark flung an ill-advised pass toward midcourt, where it was picked off by Garrett Hien, who passed it back into the offensive end.
JP Pegues sank the game-winning 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds to play.
The trouble with the trap evoked painful memories of the 2016 Elite Eight, when it was Syracuse’s press that shook, rattled and ultimately stunned UVa, just when it was on the doorstep of the Final Four.
The program’s history, of course, had no impact on this latest loss. But this year’s team’s flaws certainly did. A bad free throw shooting team for most of the season, Virginia’s Clark and freshman Isaac McKneely each missed free throws in the final 35 seconds, both times with chances to give UVa a 5-point lead.
But long before those final, painful moments, the Cavaliers had ceded control of the contest, unable to answer when Richey and the Paladins threw a strategic curveball their way. Furman switched to a zone defense, just past the midway point in the second half.
After getting drives to the basket and finishes at the rim for almost the first 30 minutes, Virginia looked flummoxed by Furman’s 1-3-1. It’s true, the Paladins had not showed the zone much, if at all, this season. Bennett said the Paladins played zone less than 1% of the time going into Thursday.
Still, surely Clark – the ACC’s all-time winningest player – and his veteran teammates could handle it.
“I feel like the zone slowed us down a little bit, took us out of rhythm,” junior guard Reece Beekman said. “I feel like that was a turning point in the game for them, and then they executed that pretty well.”
The team that hadn’t been there, hadn’t done that, got the job done. The team that, at its best, might have been a Sweet 16 team, is going home early. Again.
Mike Barber (804) 649-6546
@RTD_MikeBarber on Twitter
The latest exhibit on the first floor of the University of Virginia’s Albert and Shirley Small Collections Library honors some of America’s most impactful female writers with “Women Making Books,” a 23-item display in time for Women’s History Month.
The new exhibition is a visual timeline that begins with a volume of poetry by Phillis Wheatley, the first Black woman to author publish a book of poetry, and an autobiography by Charlotte Charke from the 18th century and ended with a contemporary piece called “She Feels Your Absence Deeply,” which was created with wooden blocks and completed by UVa alumna Golnar Adili in 2021.
Annyston Pennington, the UVa English doctoral student and lead curator of the exhibit, told the library that the poetry book was the first item she chose for the display because she wondered what the volume would have looked like without the influence of her enslavers.
The exhibit is a catalog of the countless ways that women have transformed books to reflect a moment in time throughout history. While the appearance of books—like the binding and font—has evolved over the last 200 years, different variations of poetry books and scrapbooks have been consistent.
“We hope to tell different stories of female agency when it comes to bookmaking,” said Andy Stauffer, a UVa professor of English and co-curator of the exhibition. “We were drawn to objects that still look like books, but have been productively reimagined, recreated, scrambled, or personalized by women of all different backgrounds.”
“Women Making Books” will be displayed at the Small Collections Library through June 10, after the UVa English Department hosts the British Women Writers Conference on May 25.
Opera singers are accustomed to learning new languages to make sure their performances shine. As part of her preparation for Victory Hall Opera’s new production, “Orpheus & Erica,” soprano Jennifer Zetlan has been learning American Sign Language.
She has discovered that a poem presented in ASL “is like an aria.”
“Deaf poetry is its own opera,” Zetlan said. “It’s music that we can’t hear. It’s stunning.”
A cast of Deaf actors and hearing opera singers will perform “Orpheus & Erica” at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and March 25 at Cabell Hall Auditorium at the University of Virginia. Christine Brandes will conduct the opera, which will be in Italian with English supertitles.
The production is co-directed by Alek Lev and Victory Hall Opera artistic director Miriam Gordon-Stewart, who wrote new text for the production. Poetry by Gregory Orr will be performed in ASL, as translated by Willy Conley.
Christoph Willibald Gluck’s famous 1762 opera “Orfeo ed Euridice” has touched hearts for centuries by sharing a tale from classical mythology about the lengths lovers will go to for love through opera’s heart-tugging storytelling style. In the local production, look for Brenda Patterson as Orpheus, Zetlan as Eurydice and countertenor Chuanyuan Liu as Amore.
“I’ve been bitten by a snake, and I am away in the underworld — and Orpheus comes to drag me back,” Zetlan said.
Victory Hall Opera’s new production conveys the enduring freshness of Gluck’s story while bringing its themes forward into a 21st-century story of love and the fear of loss that follows a couple and doctor on a journey into illness and fertility.
Two prominent Deaf actors — John Maucere and Amber Zion — play the modern couple, Orson and Erica, and Warren “Wawa” Snipe portrays Phoenix.
Listen for the UVa Chamber Singers, prepared by Michael Slon, as the chorus.
“What’s great about Miriam’s play is it’s Orpheus in a modern context,” Zetlan said, with themes of enduring love and “cheating death” in a setting of modern medical complexities from the headlines that’s more familiar to today’s audiences.
“The old story is made new again through this adaptation,” Maucere said.
“Orpheus & Erica” is the fruit of an ongoing artistic collaboration among Victory Hall Opera singers and creative team members and a team of Deaf theater professionals, and the culmination of the artists’ 2020 “Breaking the Sound Barrier” workshop.
Teaming up with Deaf performers has been a real pleasure,” Zetlan said. She called the Deaf performers’ movement style “musical” and said the collaboration is fueling constant creative discoveries.
“I’m consistently mesmerized in rehearsal at happy accidents,” Zetlan said. “We have two directors who are able to work with both casts adroitly.”
“We have interpreters in the room always. The visual signaling? We have to step that up to make sure everyone’s on the same page.”
Maucere said having excellent ASL interpreters on hand has been important, as has having experienced directors — one in opera and one in Deaf theater.
Maucere, as Lev interpreted, has enjoyed diving into “Deaf roles created especially for us.”
Audiences, “whether you are Deaf or hearing, are going to have this really unique experience.” Maucere said.
As for Zetlan’s language studies, she said she’ll continue learning ASL after the production ends. She’s smitten.
“I’m so in love with the language,” Zetlan said. “It’s a direct communication you can’t duplicate in direct speech.”
Tickets are $35; students get in for free, but tickets are required through artsboxoffice.virginia.edu. For details about the opera company, go to www.victoryhallopera.org.