Yesterday, we looked at the first part of the Virginia 2018-19 season. Today, we get to the real juicy part of the season to finish out our look back at Virginia’s National Championship run.
The next six (!) games are the tough ones to recap, and I won’t do it justice, so I’m going to rely heavily on our past work to properly capture the emotions involved here.
Virginia earned a No. 1 seed in the Tournament in what was truly just a very manageable draw. The Hoos opened up the NCAA Tournament against Gardner Webb, which if you look at the final score, looks like Virginia just cruised its way to another victory there. Anyone who watched it would remember otherwise, as the Hoos needed to overcome a 14-point first half deficit in order to put the game away. Kyle was almost nonexistent in points, at “just” 8, but it was the reemergence of Deandre Hunter in the second half that woke the Hoos up and avoided another 1-16 upset. I didn’t think I’d ever have to type those words, but here we are.
Perhaps Virginia’s only “easy” win of the tournament, the Hoos cruised past Oklahoma in the second round to advance to the Sweet 16. And really, the boys were looking like they were just having fun out there.
Against Oregon in the Sweet 16, Virginia was stuck playing a team that was very comfortable moving at the Hoos’ pace, taking away an advantage that Virginia typically holds against its opponents. But Virginia’s defense kept Oregon at bay, with the Ducks enduring four scoring droughts of three minutes or longer, including one that lasted 5:39. And while Virginia’s offense held its own, it was the defense that stood out, giving the Hoos the 53-49 victory in a game that was played over just 55 possessions.
It also gave us this formal apology letter.
Virginia drew Purdue in the Elite Eight, another team cursed with an inability to make it all the way in the big dance. Just thinking about it gives me chills. Purdue’s Carson Edwards put up 42 points against the Hoos, unable to miss from anywhere on the court and especially from three. But for every Edwards action, there was an equal and opposite Cavalier reaction. In front of a very Boilermaker crowd, Virginia earned its first trip to the Final Four with a 80-75 win. It happened in dramatic fashion, and you have to watch the full highlights video:
Virginia and Auburn in the Final Four featured two teams that had never reached this level before. In fact, other than Michigan State, all three other teams (Texas Tech being the other) were newcomers to the Final Four game, which made the trip a heck of a lot of fun.
Even more so for Virginia. Again, the Hoos needed last-minute antics. Virginia had all but lost the game as Kyle Guy went up for three and the shot was off the mark. Washington Post declared Auburn the winners. Auburn fans rolled Toomer’s Corner. But what they didn’t realize was that Guy was fouled on the shot, and he would go on, ever clutch, to sink three free throws in a row in the most stone-cold fashion to send Virginia to its first-ever National Championship game. Again, you should just watch the entire highlights of the 63-62 win.
And finally, the most euphoric moment of it all.
Much like the two games that preceded it, the Cavaliers didn’t make anything easy on the fans watching as they needed a game-tying three from Hunter with 13 seconds left and a game-saving block from Braxton Key to send the title contest to OT. Texas Tech took a lead in the extra frame, but another three from Hunter gave Virginia an advantage they wouldn’t relinquish. As the defense shut down the Red Raiders, the Hoos went a perfect 12-for-12 from the free throw line to ice the game and start the celebrations.
Once again, the full highlights:
After the confetti and streamers fell, the Hoos hoisted the trophy, and cut down the nets, the Virginia fans, players, and coaches got to watch One Shining Moment, and it was beautiful: