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Comparing Men’s Basketball and Men’s Lacrosse’s NCAA title runs

Considering how the Cardiac Cavs came to be

NCAA Lacrosse: Mens Championship-Virginia vs Yale Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It was a magical spring season for UVA athletics. Two championships separated by just 49 days in men’s basketball and men’s lacrosse gave us moments we will never forget, and, given the recent misery that has been a part of following Virginia athletics (cough UMBC, Virginia Tech football, cough), some recompense for our fanatic support.

For some, these two titles solidify the 2018-2019 athletic year as the best season ever witnessed in Charlottesville. This is especially true when coupled with football’s 28-0 domination of South Carolina in the Belk Bowl, the team’s first bowl win since 2005. And yet, what made these two runs so memorable came not just from the end results, but in the way each contest played out; the sheer back-and-forth nature of nearly every tournament game goes unparalleled in Virginia sports history. For the most part, these journeys were more stressful than anything.

The miraculous comebacks, game-winning shots, and general feeling of anxiety make the comparisons obvious. You’ve probably already heard some of the pundits putting the two together, applying the “Cardiac Cavs” adage to the programs’ respective runs. With this in mind, then, what better to do than really break down all of the apparent similarities?

Let’s dig in.


Basketball: Virginia 80, Purdue 75 (OT)

Lacrosse: Virginia 13, Maryland 12 (OT)

*Men’s basketball will appear first in the comparisons.

3-point deficit, 5.9 seconds left - 5-goal deficit, 7 minutes left

In both of these contests, UVA was on the absolute brink of elimination, facing seemingly insurmountable odds. Thanks to a Carsen Edwards’ three-pointer off the glass — his last of 10 long-balls on the night — and a free throw from Ryan Cline, the basketball team trailed by three as Ty Jerome headed to the line following an intentional foul. The plan: make the first, miss the second, and hope some sort of divine intervention follows.

Well, I think we all know how that one played out:

While not as close to the buzzer, men’s lacrosse found themselves in a similar situation, trailing by five goals with just seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and four goals with just under four minutes remaining. Of course, this scenario was all too familiar for Head Coach Lars Tiffany’s squad, having already captured four games when losing by the same margin earlier in the season. Still, the sheer fight of this team can never be underestimated.

Kihei Clark’s pass to Mamadi Diakite - Michael Kraus’ assist to Matt Moore

Without this pair’s awareness in the late stages of their respective quarterfinal bouts, the iconic moments we now cherish would have never been possible. Kihei Clark’s ability to look off Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome as the clock dwindled down in order to find the better option was something special, particularly for a freshman point guard who some did not believe even deserved to play in the ACC. Michael Kraus, an experienced junior captain by contrast, and a prolific scorer in his own right, showed that he could make the smart, unselfish move when it mattered most.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-South Regional-Purdue vs Virginia
Kihei Clark celebrating with his teammates after Virginia’s win in the Elite Eight.
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Diakite’s buzzer beater - Moore’s game-winner

Simply put, two of the greatest highlights in UVA athletic history.

In just his second season as a Cavalier, Matt Moore’s top-shelf ringer secured Virginia’s first trip back to Championship Weekend since 2011, completing the improbable comeback against a storied Maryland program. With one shot, Moore marked the team’s true return to the national stage in just Tiffany’s third year at the helm. Junior forward Mamadi Diakite offered something similar with his floater in the lane over the outstretched arms of Purdue’s 7’3 big man Matt Haarms, as he resurrected Head Coach Tony Bennett’s quest for a first ever Final Four.


Basketball: Virginia 63, Auburn 62

Lacrosse: Virginia 13, Duke 12 (2OT)

4-point deficit, 10 seconds left - 2-goal deficit without the ball, 1:17 left

Once again, we’ll start with the scoreboards.

After Virginia let a ten-point lead slip away, junior forward Anfernee McLemore added two free throws to give the Auburn Tigers a two possession advantage with just 17 seconds remaining. On the lacrosse field, Duke seemed equally as in control, holding a two-goal lead and the ball following a UVA turnover at the 1:27 mark. Bottom line: things looked grim for the Hoos.

Or maybe, looking back at it, the Cardiac Cavs had them right where they wanted.

2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championship - Semifinals
Jack Simmons and Ryan Conrad embrace after a score.
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Kyle Guy’s three to bring the Hoos within one - Ian Laviano’s game-tying goal

Though these two shots might not shine brightest on the highlight reels, both Kyle Guy and Ian Laviano’s scores were just as integral to these dramatic stretches as anything else. Neither shots were lay-ups either: a double-pump three in the face of a defender and a low-to-high screamer that dipped just below the crossbar could not have been as easy as they were made to look.

Guy’s three free throws - Laviano’s OT winner

I still don’t know how Guy made those free throws. With his team down two, 0.6 seconds on the clock, around 70,000 fans watching, and one presumptive Auburn Tiger looming behind him, the junior sharpshooter stepped up to the charity stripe and made all three attempts count, sending Wahoo nation into pandemonium and his team into the final game. Even the man himself had to admit that the task in front of him was a daunting one: “I was terrified,” Guy told CBS’ Tracy Wolfson.

Auburn v Virginia
The Tigers’ Bryce Brown gestures as Kyle Guy toes the line.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Though Laviano’s performance last Saturday might not compare to these freakishly-heroic acts, what he did against the Blue Devils - a team UVA had not beaten since 2010 - was nevertheless an amazing feat. His shot from the middle of the field and ensuing celebration across the turf will live on as an iconic sequence in the annals of Virginia men’s lacrosse for years to come.

2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championship - Semifinals
Ian Laviano reacts to his goal.
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images


Basketball: Virginia 85, Texas Tech 77 (OT)

Lacrosse: Virginia 13, Yale 9

De’Andre Hunter - Virginia’s relentless defense

After a somewhat lackluster NCAA Tournament performance through the team’s first five games, at least by his standards, redshirt sophomore swingman De’Andre Hunter proved his NBA Draft Lottery worth, finishing with 27 points and nine rebounds in the title game, while also limiting the Red Raiders’ star Jarrett Culver to 15 points on 5-22 shooting. Hunter’s three in the waning seconds of the second half lifted UVA back from the dead - a theme you will notice if you’ve been following along - helping to push the game into overtime.

NCAA Men’s Final Four - National Championship - Texas Tech v Virginia
De’Andre Hunter’s game-tying three.
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

For lacrosse, it wasn’t any single player that wreaked all of the havoc on the defensive side of the ball, but the unit as a whole, which became the difference maker on championship Monday. UVA’s constant pursuit in the opposition’s zone, through the midfield, and within their own end discomforted Yale for the vast majority of game time. The result: a season-low nine goals and 20 turnovers for the defending national champions.

Braxton Key’s block - Alex Rode’s play

What might have happened if Braxton Key wasn’t able to get his fingertips on the ball as Culver attempted the game-winner? It’s a good thing we’ll never know. Key’s block both ensured that the Hoos would get five more minutes of play and negated Hunter’s disastrous outlet pass moments beforehand.

Just as Key “saved” the Cavaliers in their championship battle with Texas Tech, so did sophomore goalie Alex Rode. Having faced some adversity throughout the earlier part of the season - even losing a couple of starts to highly touted freshman Patrick Burkinshaw - Rode had perhaps his best stretch in the cage during Championship Weekend. After posting 18 stops in the semifinals, the Maryland native recorded 13 saves against a Yale team that had been vaunted for their offensive firepower throughout 2019. It makes sense, then, that he was named the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championship
Alex Rode warming up before the championship tilt.
Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Key’s breakaway dunk - Laviano’s open-netter

Ah, yes, the cherry on top.

Both Key’s flush at the end of overtime that iced the program’s first ever national championship and Laviano’s shot to put the Hoos up five were euphoric, if not stress-relieving, scores. It was also particularly sweet to see two players who had performed so well on the grandest of stages rewarded for their efforts.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-National Championship-Virginia vs Texas Tech
Braxton Key’s game-sealing jam.
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports


Ty Jerome’s double-dribble - Kraus’ game-tying goal

Sorry, I had to.

Everyone knows that you need a little bit of luck to win a championship. Well, maybe a lot of luck, at least in Virginia’s case, who ended up on the good end of a few late-game calls. This was certainly the case in lacrosse’s come-from-behind win versus Maryland when Michael Kraus’ game-tying shot counted despite seeming to ricochet off of the top bar and landing outside of the cage. Much the same, basketball’s victory over Auburn was clouded in scrutiny, as many blamed the referees for missing a Ty Jerome double-dribble that would have almost certainly ended the game (although it appeared they also overlooked a foul by the Tigers’ Bryce Brown moments before, too).

In any event, I think I speak on behalf of Wahoo nation when I say, we’ll take it.