Virginia advances to Final Four after buzzer-beater, epic OT battle with Purdue

Yahoo Sports

No one in attendance will ever forget March 30, 2019. Nobody will forget the basketball in Louisville on Saturday night. Nobody will forget the noise. Nobody will forget the show. And especially not the Virginia Cavaliers.

The Cavs and Purdue Boilermakers staged an epic Elite Eight battle, trading 27-footers and leads, a place in the Final Four changing hands tenuously with every one of them.

And in the end, despite a legendary 42 points from Carsen Edwards, that place belongs to Virginia. For the first time since 1984, the Cavaliers are headed back to college basketball’s biggest stage.

But only after the game of the tournament. Only after a whirlwind 39 minutes and 50 seconds, a bonkers final 10 seconds of regulation, and an extremely tense overtime period.

Edwards put Purdue ahead in the final minute of OT. De’Andre Hunter answered with a tough driving layup to put Virginia up 76-75. And Edwards finally missed with the shot clock turned off on the ensuing possession.

Two Kyle Guy free throws and a Purdue turnover on its final possession sealed Virginia’s place in Minneapolis.

“We made bad history last year,” Guy said immediately after the game, referring to last year’s loss to No. 16 seed UMBC. “We’re making great history this year.”

And they’re doing it in absolutely stunning fashion.

Virginia's Mamadi Diakite, center, reacts with teammates Kyle Guy and Jack Salt after hitting a shot to send the Cavaliers' Elite Eight game against Purdue to overtime. (AP)
Virginia's Mamadi Diakite, center, reacts with teammates Kyle Guy and Jack Salt after hitting a shot to send the Cavaliers' Elite Eight game against Purdue to overtime. (AP)

Virginia forces OT with buzzer-beater

Edwards’ heroics had given Purdue a late lead after trailing for much of the second half. With less than 20 seconds remaining, Virginia found itself down three, with sharpshooter Ryan Cline at the line for the second of two free throws. The Cavs’ outlooked appeared bleak.

But Cline missed. Purdue, hoping to avoid a game-tying 3-pointer, fouled Ty Jerome.

Jerome made the front end of a one-and-one, then missed the second short. Virginia’s Mamadi Diakite tapped the rebound all the way into the backcourt. Kihei Clark raced back to get it. He threw the ball ahead to Diakite, who barely beat the buzzer and sent the game to OT:

Officials reviewed the play to ensure Diakite got the shot off. And indeed he did, with about 0.4 seconds on the clock.

With that, Virginia had life at the end of an astounding, mind-blowing, jump-out-of-your-seat-and-never-sit-back-down game, undoubtedly the best of March 2019.

Virginia withstands Purdue’s 3-point barrage

With a roar accompanying every Purdue stop or score, the Boilermakers picked up where they left off two days earlier against Tennessee. Which is to say they seemingly could not miss.

Cline, coming off a 27-point performance in the Sweet 16, opened the floodgates. Edwards stormed through them. Aaron Wheeler and Eric Hunter Jr. followed.

The Boilermakers hit their first three 3-pointers as the KFC Yum Center’s roof held on for dear life. They made six of their first eight, and seven of their first 10. And they made some of the seven at an absurdly high degree of difficulty.

Ninety-nine percent of college teams would have been flummoxed and demoralized by the onslaught. Virginia, however, is the one percent.

The Cavs, who rank top-10 nationally in 3-point shooting, were misfiring from long range early. Guy, one of the country’s best shooters, an Indiana kid, was missing when wide-open. But Virginia, as it was against Oregon, was unfazed.

It continued to cut and churn, running its offense, maintaining patience. It started 4-of-4 from inside the arc. It went to Diakite for some early offense. It climbed back from a 10-point deficit and into the game. Purdue eventually cooled off. Edwards was the only Boilermaker to score in the first half after the 9:46 mark.

As a team, Purdue only made two 2-point field goals in the first half, and saw its lead dwindle to one after 20 minutes.

Kyle Guy injures ankle, then remembers how to shoot

Late in the first half, Guy crumpled to the floor after rolling his ankle. He limped to the bench. He was in serious pain. His evening, and his NCAA tournament overall, appeared to have gone from bad to worse.

But he returned for the final possession of the half, and in the second, he put his previously-frigid March behind him.

Guy’s 3 on the first possession of the second half, his first of the game, gave Virginia its first lead of the game.

His second triple extended the lead. A few minutes later, he hit a third.

With Guy finding his range, and ending his Yum Center woes, Virginia was as efficient as ever on offense. The only man it didn’t have an answer for was Edwards.

Carsen Edwards did his best Steph Curry impression

Edwards was pulling from anywhere and everywhere. On balance and off balance. Guarded and unguar... — well, actually, he was always guarded.

He saw Guy get hot at one end, and realized he had to match the Indianapolis native. After Virginia took an eight-point lead at 45-37, Edwards buried 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions. He was borderline unstoppable once the ball hit his hands.

Virginia head coach Tony Bennett had made a halftime adjustment to account for Edwards’ unconsciousness, switching the 6-foot-7 Hunter onto Purdue’s catalyst. But Hunter, a likely NBA lottery pick, couldn’t do anything to contain him.

Even when Edwards couldn’t quite get his feet back behind the line, his stroke was true.

Edwards, for a fifth consecutive NCAA tournament game, scored at least 25 points, matching Steph Curry’s run at Davidson. He passed Curry’s point total over four games. He became the first player since Curry to win a regional’s most outstanding player award in a losing effort.

After a while, his shot selection started mirroring Curry’s, too. And his off-balance, contested fadeaways kept going in like Curry’s do. He made 10 3-pointers in all, smashing the single-tournament record in just four games with 28.

When Virginia pressured him 30 feet from the hoop, trying to prevent an 11th, Edwards drove to give Purdue its final lead.

In totality, it was quite a show.

But after all the late-game insanity, it wasn’t quite enough.

Tony Bennett reaches his first Final Four

Nobody deserved to lose Saturday’s game. But nobody deserved to win it more than Tony Bennett did.

Bennett has been the best college basketball coach of the decade. He has turned a middling ACC program into a perennial power. In Year 5 of his project, 2014, his Cavaliers earned a No. 1 seed. Since, they’ve only failed to reach the top line twice. In five of the last six years, they have ranked among Ken Pomeroy’s top six teams. They have won the sport’s most powerful conference four times, and won that conference’s tournament twice.

Yet a Final Four – to say nothing of a national title – remained elusive. There were the consecutive NCAA tournament losses to Michigan State. There was the heartbreaking Elite Eight defeat against 10th-seeded Syracuse. There was the embarrassment of 39 points against Florida. And of course there was UMBC.

But behind the March failures was a whole lot of randomness. And beneath the randomness was college basketball’s most consistent program. It deserved a Final Four.

And now, after Saturday’s madness, it has one. Nineteen years after Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett beat Purdue in the Elite Eight, his son Tony repeated the feat.

The Cavs won. College basketball won. And with that vexing hump now conquered, Virginia is very capable of winning two more.

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