LOST AMID the high drama of tournament victories over Purdue, Auburn and Texas Tech was Virginia’s tense Sweet 16 clash with Oregon. Seeking to become the first No. 12 seed ever to upset a No. 1, the Ducks led 45-42 with 5:21 remaining when Kihei Clark elevated for a right-wing 3-pointer.
Clark was the least-accurate shooter among the Cavaliers’ regulars on the season, earning playing time with defense and poise. His shot was true, igniting an 8-0 run that gave UVA control en route to a 53-49 win. It wouldn’t be Clark’s last, or most important, postseason play.
VIRGINIA TRAILED No. 13 seed Purdue 70-67 with 5.9 seconds remaining in the South Regional final when Ty Jerome went to the line for a bonus free throw. He made the first and, to this day, won’t reveal whether he missed the second mistakenly or intentionally. But this much is certain: The only free throw the Cavaliers missed after halftime—they made 14—was a blessing.
Unable to secure the rebound himself, Mamadi Diakite tapped the ball deep into the backcourt, where Clark, resisting a panicked shot, dribbled twice and threw a perfect pass to Diakite, whose catch-and-shoot 12-footer over 7-foot-3 Matt Haarms just beat the horn and forced overtime. There, UVA prevailed 80-75 to reach the Final Four.
THE CAVALIERS were in more dire straits against Auburn at the Final Four, down 61-57 with 17 seconds left. Ten seconds later, Kyle Guy hit a 3-pointer from the right corner, after which Clark fouled Jared Harper, Auburn’s best free-throw shooter at 82.8 percent.
Harper made the first foul shot but missed the second, keeping UVA’s deficit at 62-60. As Jerome hurried upcourt, he dribbled the ball off his right foot, retreated, regained possession and dribbled again, a clear double-dribble violation that Jerome later said was caused by contact from Auburn’s Bryce Brown. But officials did not stop play until an obvious nonshooting foul by Brown, setting up a final play for Virginia with 1.5 seconds left.
Inbounding from the left sideline, Jerome passed to Guy in the left corner. His 3-point jumper was short, but Samir Doughty impeded his landing, and official James Breeding whistled a foul.
Six-tenths of a second remained as Guy went to the line for three free throws. Behind him, Auburn’s Brown made the choke sign.
Guy made the first and second free throws, after which Auburn coach Bruce Pearl called timeout to ice him. No one spoke to Guy in UVA’s huddle. No one had to. He made the third, advancing the Cavaliers to the national championship game.
DE’ANDRE HUNTER’S final college basketball performance was his best, and his final two shots from the field were indelible.
For the third consecutive contest, UVA trailed in the waning moments of regulation as Texas Tech led the national title game 68-65. But as several defenders converged on him driving the lane, Jerome found Hunter open in the right corner. Hunter’s 3-pointer forced overtime.
In the extra session, Hunter’s 3-pointer put the Cavaliers ahead, 75-73. They won 85-77 as the NBA-bound Hunter finished with a career-best 27 points.