The Virginia Cavaliers showed what are they all about. After writing history last season, they wrote it again in this campaign.
But there is a big difference. The Cavs are now the champs! They have defeated Texas Tech Red Raiders in the NCAA championship game after overtimes, 85-77, and clinched their first title.
Last season they became the first No.1 in the history of the NCAA tournament which was knocked out in the opening round of the March Madness by a No.16.
They were the ultimate losers. And everybody was laughing at Tony Bennett and his crew.
After tonight’s win, nobody is laughing.
“I hope that it’s a message for some people out there that there can be hope and joy and resiliency,” said Bennett, who finally stepped out of the shadow of his father, Dick.
His Cavaliers once again won a tight and thrilling game. They are the masters of playing under pressure and edging out opponents with their mental stability.
Though, at some periods of the game, it didn’t seem that this game is going to have a dramatic ending. Throughout most of the second half, they had a comfortable lead, which even stretched to double-digit figures. With 10:22 until the end, Cavs had a 53-43 advantage.
Several minutes later they started to choke. For almost three minutes the Red Raiders held Virginia without points, while on the other side of the court they scored 8 points.
Suddenly this game became a close one. The Raiders had a three-point lead coming into the last 22 seconds of the match, but DeAndre Hunter showed why he is on the radar of many NBA teams and is considered as a potential draft steal.
Ice-cold, he made a three-pointer to tie the game, and to pull his team out of the hole. There was no defense from that, although Texas Tech tried to prevent it from happening.
“With a 3-point lead … we’re trying to play really sound defense with three objectives: No 3-point shots, no ‘and-ones,’ and we’ve got to secure the defensive rebounds,” Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. “We just came up a little bit short.”
During the overtime, that mental strength which Cavs possess emerged to the surface. They haven’t missed a single free throw during the additional five minutes, hitting 12 straight.
This came as an ultimate proof of the claim that this generation of the Cavaliers might be one of the best and most gifted teams in the history of the college basketball in terms of clutch situations.
Just look at their road up to here. Tight games, comebacks from the verge of the cliff, wins after overtimes. Such a composure, and yet so young.
DeAndre Hunter scored 27 points and had 9 boards. Kyle Guy had 24 and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four tournament.
The sharpshooter brought a win against Auburn Tigers hitting three straight free throws with less than a second to go, to give Virginia a one-point lead.
“I don’t have the words, man,” Guy said after the game and after hearing that he got the MOP award.
On the other side of the court, the Red Raiders also didn’t have any words, only tears.
Red Raiders coach Chris Beard said: “This is real life. We’ll bounce back.”
Jarrett Culver had two chances to win this game. After Hunter’s three, Texas Tech had the last possession. Culver first missed a three-pointer, then a jumper for two.
“We are all hurt,” Big 12 player of the year said in front of the locker room. “Falling short just sucks.”
During the final game, his hand was cold, and Culver missed 17 of his 22 shots, reaching up to 15 points, and failing to deliver when needed the most. Brandone Francis had 17 points off the bench, Davide Morretti 15 also.
For the first time after 10 years, the championship game saw an overtime. The last time that happened Kansas Jayhawks defeated Memphis Tigers back in 2008. That is what made this game even more exciting.
The Final Four all-tournament team has been picked after this game also. Three players are from the winning side Guy, Hunter and Ty Jerome, and two from the Red Raiders, Culver and Matt Mooney.
With this game, the NCAA season is over.