For the second straight game, the Virginia Cavaliers pulled a victory from the jaws of defeat as the Hoos triumphed over the Auburn Tigers 63-62 to earn a spot in the National Championship game. It took a clutch performance over the final seven seconds from Kyle Guy — included three free throws to give Virginia lead with 0.6 seconds left on the clock.
Guy finished with 15 points on 5-for-11 shooting to go with four assists and three rebounds. Ty Jerome was stellar for the Cavaliers, dropping in 21 points and going 4-for-9 from three while also adding nine rebounds and six assists. De’Andre Hunter had a strong second half with 14 points for the game, and Kihei Clark had nine points and three assists.
The opening tip-off went out of bounds, with possession being awarded to Auburn. Virginia’s defense stepped up right out of the gate, forcing a shot clock violation with the Tigers unable to even get a shot off. Guy missed a long jumper, but Auburn’s three attempt careened wide and Guy got the rebound.
Diakite got the Hoos on the board first with a layup underneath, and Jerome added to it with a free throw after drawing a foul. Danjel Purifoy scored the first bucket for the Tigers to make it 3-2 before Clark slipped behind the Auburn defense for an easy layup and Jerome’s second assist. A dunk from Anfernee McLemore cut Virginia’s lead to one, and Guy and Bryce Brown traded threes as the Hoos held onto an 8-7 advantage with just under 16 minutes to play in the first half.
Guy’s next three attempt went off the rim, and Brown looked to have had a three to take the lead, but the ball rimmed out after going halfway down. Auburn took its first lead of the game with a drive by Samir Doughty with 14:22 left on the clock. Clark found Jerome with a slick pass for a reverse layup and a 10-9 lead on the next possession. Doughty went to the line and made both free throws to put the Tigers up 11-10 after Jack Salt got him with a foul.
Hunter’s jump shot wouldn’t go, and Salt picked up his second foul trying to get the rebound. Diakite came back into the game for the senior big man with the Hoos trailing by one with seven minutes gone in the half. Austin Wiley pushed the Tigers’ lead to three with a jumper over Diakite and Key.
Another miss from Virginia gave Auburn a chance to extend its lead, but the three point attempt missed. The two teams traded turnovers, and Guy got a bucket in transition to cut the deficit to one at 13-12. Jerome took things into his own hands with a tough rebound on one end and a gritty drive to the hoop through contact for the bucket and foul. His free throw wouldn’t go, but Virginia retook a slight lead at 14-13.
Jared Harper’s three attempt from the top of the arc wouldn’t go, and Hunter got his first bucket of the day to give the Hoos a 16-13 lead. Another defensive stop led to a chance to extend the lead, but Hunter’s shot rimmed out. Braxton Key swatted away J’Von McCormick’s layup attempt, but wasn’t able to pull in the ensuing rebound after it caromed off the rim at a weird angle.
Brown’s three ball would go wide, and Key was able to snag it in traffic for the defensive rebound. Another big bucket from Jerome pushed the lead to five, but Auburn answered with an alley-oop from McLemore.
Auburn went on a mini-run after Diakite’s three attempt wouldn’t fall as McCormick worked his way inside for a layup. Key answered with a dunk off of a gorgeous assist from Guy, and Doughty’s three missed everything to give Virginia the ball back with 7:06 left in the first half and a narrow 20-17 lead.
Hunter put Virginia back up by five, but a three from Doughty rattled around before falling through to make it 22-20. Auburn tied it up thanks to two free throws from Purifoy, and a miscommunication between Diakite and Guy led to a turnover for the Hoos. A broken play led to what looked like an easy bucket for the Tigers, but Diakite came out of nowhere for the swat and a chance to retake the lead.
Auburn’s defense stood tall, forcing Virginia into a shot clock violation as Jerome tried a heave at the buzzer. The Tigers took a 24-22 lead on a play at the rim, but Jerome gave it right back to the Hoos with a second-chance three. Horace Spencer put the Tigers back on top with the first half’s seventh lead change of the game. Virginia had two chances to get back on top, but came up empty and Harper pushed Auburn’s lead to three.
Once again it was Jerome who responded for the Hoos, canning his second three of the half to tie things up at 28. McLemore answered with a three of his own with 40 seconds left on the clock, and Hunter couldn’t get his to go. Harper’s attempt to end the half fell harmless, sending the Tigers into halftime with a 31-28 lead.
The difference in the first half score was Auburn’s 4-for-4 mark at the line as compared to Virginia’s 1-for-3 as both teams made 12 field goals and three three-pointers in the first half. Jerome led Virginia with 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting (2-for-4 from three) to go with four rebounds and three assists.
Virginia shot 43% from the field and 33% from three and only turned the ball over four times, but Auburn went 12-for-29 from the field (41%) as they got 18 points in the paint against the Hoos. Doughty and McLemore led the Tigers with seven points apiece as Virginia did well holding Harper (four points) and Brown (three points) in check.
Hunter opened up the scoring immediately for the Cavaliers as he drove the baseline for a dunk that made it 31-30. Auburn’s three-point attempt wouldn’t fall, and Jerome got the rebound to get the Hoos going on offense again. Another drive by Hunter led to a drawn foul, but the redshirt second year missed both free throws.
After another miss from the Tigers from deep, Hunter called his number again for a baseline turnaround jumper to give the Hoos a one-point lead. ON the defensive end, things stayed hot for Hunter as he swatted away an attempt from Brown. Jerome’s three wouldn’t fall for Virginia, but Clark came up with a huge steal on Harper and got the layup to go for a 34-31 lead with 17:29 to play.
Both teams traded misses — including another three-point attempt from Diakite — as the score stayed stuck for over three minutes. Clark drew a foul driving to the basket and made both to put the Hoos up by five once more, matching its biggest lead of the game to that point.
The Tigers quickly erased the lead with a three from Harper and a live ball turnover that led to an easy bucket in transition. Hunter answered with a layup off the glass to make it 38-36, and Clark found him again with a nifty pass to put the Hoos up by four. Guy was whistled for a foul on McCormick, and he made both at the line to cut Virginia’s lead to two with 12:27 remaining in the game.
Guy pushed the advantage back to four with a tough play in the lane, but Wiley answered with a bucket to keep things tight. A pull up two from Guy made it 44-40, and another Diakite block — his fourth of the game — gave the Hoos the ball back with a chance to extend the lead. Salt was unable to get the shot off before the shot clock expired, and Auburn hit a three on the other end to make it a one-point game once more.
Clark answered with a three of his own to make it 47-43, and Brown’s three attempt went off the iron and into Diakite’s waiting arms. Virginia started to pick up a little momentum with a three from Jerome to give the Hoos a seven-point lead, and Auburn’s next attempt wouldn’t go. Another late shot clock situation led to Clark’s shot getting swatted by Wiley with one second left, and Virginia couldn’t get the shot to fall off the ensuing inbounds play.
Purifoy drew a foul on Salt, going to the line where he made one of two to cut Virginia’s lead back to six. Guy’s shot from outside wouldn’t fall, but Harper connected on a quick three to make it 50-47 with just over seven minutes to play. Jerome somehow got a leaning floater to go with two seconds on the shot clock, and Harper answered with an airball that fell harmlessly out of bounds with 6:16 remaining.
In a huge moment, Hunter battled through tons of contact (with no call) to muscle a layup in to put Virginia up seven. After a miss from the Tigers, Jerome connected on another big three from outside to give the Hoos a 10 point lead at 57-47 with 5:14 to play.
Doughty drew a foul going to the bucket and made one to cut the lead to nine. Despite a lot of contact, Jerome couldn’t get a call and then committed a foul going the other way, his fourth. Key came in for Jerome with 4:32 remaining and Virginia holding on to a nine point lead.
Brown quickly cut that lead to six with his second three pointer of the game, and Guy’s attempt at the shot clock went up off the rim. Hunter tried to put the rebound back, but was called for basket interference and Auburn would get a chance to cut into the lead further with 3:45 remaining.
Another three from Brown made it a 7-0 run for the Tigers as Auburn cut Virginia’s lead to 57-54 with 3:27 remaining. A bad take by Clark led to an easy block and the Tigers cut it to a one point game on a high arcing jumper from Purifoy.
Diakite drew a foul shooting on the other end, and missed both to give Auburn the ball back with a chance at the lead with 2:18 remaining. Brown would continue his hot streak, hitting a corner three to put the Tigers up two with just under two minutes to play. Jerome couldn’t answer and Hunter couldn’t grab the rebound, but Auburn missed a three as the clock hit one minute.
Another chance to take the lead for the Hoos ended with a missed three from Jerome as the Virginia offense went quiet down the final 5:22 of the game. Two free throws from Purifoy made it a four point game, but Guy kept a sliver of hope alive with a three-pointer with 6.5 seconds left. Harper made one to make it a two-point game, but missed the second. Virginia got the rebound and was fouled as Auburn had fouls to give.
Guy’s attempt at the buzzer went off the rim, but Doughty was called for a foul, sending him to the line for three free throws. He hit the first. He hit the second. Tie game at 62 with 0.6 seconds remaining.
He made the third.
Virginia with a 63-62 lead.
The Hoos move on and will play for the national championship on Monday night and face either Michigan State or Texas Tech.