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Villanova upset caps remarkable nine-day stretch for Furman basketball

Furman's Matt Rafferty runs down the court against Villanova.
Furman forward Matt Rafferty '19 scored 15 points and had a career-high 17 rebounds in Saturday's upset of defending national champion Villanova.

Furman has beaten higher-ranked opponents, and the Paladins have an NCAA tournament win on their resume. Still, it’s tough to argue that the men’s basketball program has notched a bigger victory than Saturday’s 76-68 overtime stunner over defending national champion Villanova in Philadelphia.

The outcome sent shockwaves across the sports world and continued a remarkable early season that has seen Furman hoops receive more media attention in the span of a few days than perhaps at any other time in history.

Here’s a look at the scene in the Furman locker room following the game:

The Paladins rallied from a 10-point first-half deficit to defeat the eighth-ranked Wildcats, who have appeared in two of the last three national championship games, and move to 5-0 on the season for the first time since 1987-88. The result pushed Furman into the headlines on a college football Saturday, led to a trending #AllDIN hashtag on social media and motivated hundreds of students and fans to meet the team at Timmons Arena when the players and coaches returned to campus Sunday afternoon.

Following is a sampling of some Twitter mentions Furman received in the aftermath of the Villanova upset:

Villanova wasn’t even the first Final Four team from last season that Furman has defeated this year. Clay Mounce’s dunk with 1.6 seconds remaining propelled Furman to a 60-58 win at Loyola-Chicago on Nov. 9, earning him the No. 2 spot on SportsCenter: Top 10 Plays of the Week, and six days later Jordan Lyons ’20 tied the NCAA Division I record with 15 3-pointers against North Greenville—all 15 of which ended up on a SportsCenter highlight clip.

Lyons, who led the team with 17 points against Villanova, was named National Player of the Week by college basketball journalist Andy Katz Monday. Furman also picked up 50 votes in this week’s AP poll, good enough for 30th in the country.

Matt Rafferty ’19, native of Hinsdale, Illinois, fueled the Villanova upset with 15 points and a career high 17 rebounds, punctuated by a fadeaway jumper that put Furman up 69-63 with 51.1 seconds left to all but seal the win and earn a profile story in his hometown paper, the Chicago Tribune.

“I saw the shot clock going down, and I knew I needed to make a play. I’ve hit that shot before,” he said. “It felt amazing out of the hand, and I think I knew it was in.”

While men’s basketball garnered most of the headlines, the Villanova upset was just one of several outstanding athletic accomplishments for Furman teams and individuals over the weekend. Aaron Templeton ’19 became the first All-American in men’s cross country in Furman history after finishing fifth at the NCAA Championships Saturday in the snow in Madison, Wisconsin, while Savannah Carnahan ’20 earned All-America honors on the women’s side by crossing the line 20th to lead the Paladins to a 23rd-place team finish.

Also on Saturday, the football team earned a share of its 14thSouthern Conference title by defeating Mercer 35-30 in Macon, Georgia. The Paladins, who lost a tiebreaker for the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, ended the year with a 6-4 record after not receiving an at-large bid to the national competition.

The men’s soccer team concluded an outstanding year with a 2-0 loss at Virginia Sunday in the second round of the NCAA tournament, the program’s 11th. The Paladins defeated UNC-Wilmington in the first round.

The Paladin men’s basketball program has beaten six teams ranked in the top 10 and three ranked higher than eighth, topped by North Carolina on Feb. 2, 1979, and Davidson on Feb. 13, 1964, when both were No. 4 in the country.

South Carolina was 10th when the Paladins defeated the Gamecocks 75-67 on March 9, 1974, for their only NCAA Tournament win—also in Philadelphia.

You can read more about Furman’s impressive 5-0 start to the 2018-19 season at USA Today and CBSSPORTS.com. The team will try to become the first in the 98 years of Furman men’s basketball to start 6-0 when it hosts Southern Wesleyan on Wednesday, Nov. 21, at Timmons Arena.

Tipoff is 6:30 p.m. Tickets to men’s basketball and other athletic events can be purchased here.

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