Virginia needed a foul call, and six points from Kyle Guy in the final eight seconds, to beat the Auburn Tigers 63-62 and advance to the first national championship game in program history.
Guy was sent to the free throw line when Samir Doughty bumped him while he was coming down from a three pointer at the end of the . Guy hit the first two free throws to tie the game at 62 with 0.6 seconds left in regulation before Bruce Pearl took a timeout to discuss what was going to happen on the inbound play for Auburn.
Guy hit the next shot from the charity stripe to give his team a one point lead. Auburn’s buzzer beater was short and the Cavaliers won one of the craziest Final Four games in recent memory.
Guy wasn’t ready to let his season end as he hit a contested three pointer in front of his own bench to close within one point of the Tigers with 6.5 seconds left. Kiehi Clark fouled Auburn’s Jared Harper to send him to the line for the one-and-one; fortunately for Virginia, Harper only hit one of the two shots.
Auburn responded by fouling the Cavaliers twice to deny them time to run a set offensive play. Ty Jermoe made the situation worse by dribbling off of his foot, then picking it up and dribbling again, which burned more time off of the clock. That’s when Tony Bennett called a timeout.
Pearl’s squad was able to get the offense back to its tempo. And that worked brilliantly as Auburn went on a 9-0 run to cut the Cavaliers lead down to one. Bryce Brown was a major reason for that as he hit a pair of threes to start off the Tigers run.
The Cavaliers offense got all of of sorts and they were unable to keep up with the frantic pace Auburn had forced them into. Brown hit another three pointer to give Auburn its first lead since the beginning of the half; while Virginia couldn’t buy a bucket on the other end of the court.
Even when Virginia did slow the ball tempo down, the shots weren’t falling. Jermoe, who’d built UVA’s lead during the previous ten minutes, suddenly went ice cold and hit brick after brick during the collapse. The Cavaliers were forced to foul after Pearl took a timeout with 20 seconds left, and trailing by two; Virginia was able to get its first two fouls without sending any Tigers to the free throw line.
After the second media timeout, Auburn came out shooting a little better; but its defense was still suspect as Virginia had very little trouble moving the ball around the perimeter until it found someone open. This included Jerome easily getting around the some defenders to take an open jumper that upped the Cavaliers lead back to five. Bennett took a time out with 6:16 left on the clock.
UVA’s offense came out when De’Andre Hunter hit a three pointer, while the defense forced a bad shot on Auburn’s offense of the court. Jerome turned that defensive rebound into a 10-point lead after he hit a three pointer in front of his own bench.
Pearl responded by taking a timeout.
While Tigers were now keeping up offensively with Virginia, the lead that UVA had built up through the first seven minutes of the second half. It was a back and fourth affair that saw Guy, Clark, and McCormick all trading shots. But Auburn’s looseness with the three pointer would prove costly as its offense struggled against the pack-line defense and Virginia’s shooters became red hot.
The largest lead of the game, to that point, came after Jermoe hit a three pointer to give the Cavaliers a 50-43 lead with 8:54 left in the game.
Hunter came out of the locker room and led UVA to a couple of huge defensive rebounds that the offense quickly converted it points. While Virginia came out more focused, the Tigers played sloppily and jacked up ill-advised three after ill-advised three.
But a key three pointer by Harper put an end to Auburn’s offensive woes after the first media timeout. Harper’s made jumper put an end to the Cavaliers 12-4 run out of the break.
After a missed three point jumper by Kyle Guy, the Tigers quickly raced down the court and got the ball in the hands of Harper. The junior guard quickly hit a jumper and for the first time in the semi-final game UVA had been sucked into Auburns’s pace of play. Harper’s lay-up marked the high point in the first half for Pearl’s program as it capped an 11-2 run to give the Tigers a 28-25 lead.
But the Cavaliers offense would not be silenced as Jermoe hit another three to tie the game at 28. Auburn responded with a three of its own on the other end of the court with 40 seconds left to go at the half. Neither squad would be able to hit another bucket and the Tigers went into the locker room with a 31-28 lead.
Auburn went on a 7-2 run to take its first lead of the game after Brown’s first three pointer of the contest. Unfortunately for the Tigers, their inability to separate from a suddenly cold shooting UVA made it so that their was more pressure on their mediocre defense. It was Guy who put an end to UA’s run and a Jerome jumper who gave Bennett’s squad its second lead of the game.
Virginia responded by going on an 8-2 run of its own to extend its lead to 18-15 that helped reestablish the tempo that the Cavaliers excel at. Braxton Key made an impressive dunk and Auburn’s offense struggled to find an answer with a couple of missed shots until McCormick hit a layup to cut UVA’s lead back down to one.
During the the first five minutes of the game, Virginia had the Tigers exactly where they wanted them. Auburn was jacking up rushed shots in a hurried attempt to establish the pace that the Tigers wanted to play at, while Virginia easily pulled in defensive rebounds to get the ball back into its offenses hands.
This included getting the ball to Diakite and Clark in the paint where they had fairly easy layups due to the Cavaliers’ height advantage. Guy hit a three pointer to give the Cavs a four-point lead. After the media timeout that resulted, the Tigers settled down when Brown sunk a three pointer to close within one.