MINNEAPOLIS — It’s hard to call Virginia basketball boring after the last two games. And the Cavaliers have pretty much put the choker label to rest, too.

From one-and-done to NCAA tournament miracle men, Virginia will play for the national title for the first time after pulling off another last-second stunner. Kyle Guy made three free throws with 0.6 seconds left, steadily swishing each one as debate immediately started over the sequence that sent him to the line, and Virginia beat Auburn 63-62 Saturday in the Final Four.

A year after becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16, these top-seeded Cavaliers now look like destiny’s team.

“It’s a great story,” Virginia Coach Tony Bennett said. “It is.”

The Cavaliers (34-3) will face Texas Tech on Monday night. Texas Tech defeated Michigan State, 61-51.

Bennett has built a powerhouse program with a style of play that is often about as exciting as a trip to the campus library. The Cavaliers have gotten straight A’s in the regular season with stingy defense and walk-it-up offense, but NCAA success has been hard to come by. Blown leads and early exits have been their story – never more than when the Cavaliers lost to UMBC in the first round last year.


The Cavaliers reached the Final Four for the first time since 1984 after a wild buzzer-beater by Mahmadi Diakite sent their regional final against Purdue to overtime. Beating Auburn took an even crazier finish.

The fifth-seeded Tigers (30-10) erased a 10-point deficit in the final five minutes and led 61-60 after Guy made an off-balance 3 with 7.6 seconds left. The shot snapped a drought of more than five minutes by the Cavaliers, who immediately sent Jared Harper to the line.

Harper made one free throw, and Auburn, with fouls to give, did so twice. During that sequence, it looked as if Virginia’s Ty Jerome might have double-dribbled into a decisive turnover. But there was no whistle.

With 1.5 seconds left after a timeout and in need of some magic, Virginia got the ball to Guy in the corner. He turned and fired, and Samir Doughty, hands straight up in the air, bumped into Guy’s hip. The shot bounced off the rim. Auburn started to celebrate and the PA announcer in U.S. Bank Stadium even announced the Tigers had won.

Guy, meanwhile, pulled his jersey over his face, but not in angst. He said he knew it wasn’t over.

“I heard (the official) call it right away,” Guy said. “That was me focusing.”


When the whistle blew, Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl lost it on the sideline, pumping his fist and screaming.

“We kind of thought we had it sealed,” said Bryce Brown, who led the Auburn comeback with three 3s in the final 4:30. “It’s not why we lost the game. I just didn’t agree with the call.”

Pearl said he didn’t want the final call to define a great game, but he did say the officials seemed to be letting physical play go throughout the game.

“My advice … if that’s a foul, call it,” Pearl said. “Call it at the beginning of the game, call it in the middle of the game, call it at the end of the game. Don’t call it any more or less at any other time during the game.”

Guy swished the first two free throws to tie it and Auburn called a timeout to ice him. It didn’t work. He hit one more for the lead.

“I just literally told myself that we dream of these moments, and to be able to make one happen was special,” Guy said.


Auburn threw a long inbounds pass to Brown, but his desperation 3 was short.

The Cavaliers mobbed Guy on one end. Brown sat on the court, head hanging, at the other end. Auburn, in the Final Four for the first time, had its 12-game winning streak and season end in a most painful way.

Jerome scored 21 points for Virginia, and De’Andre Hunter got 10 of his 14 in a stellar second half.

Doughty led Auburn with 13 points and Brown had 12 for the Tigers, who nearly beat Virginia at its own game – with tough defense and big shots in the half court.

But the team that made UMBC a household name – at least for a little while – in the first round of last year’s tournament would not be denied. It has been Virginia’s cross to bear all season, even after beating Auburn.

“I feel like I get asked this question every single round, every round we advance, and every round I say the same thing almost,” Jerome said, “and it feels a little bit sweeter, a little bit sweeter.”

Then Guy said: “Not much to add. Just you guys can ask that question again on Monday.”

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