Virginia 63, Auburn 62
When: 6:09 PM ET, Saturday, April 6, 2019
Where: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Officials: # James Breeding, # Keith Kimble, # Doug Sirmons
Special to Digital Sports Desk by Field Level Media
MINNEAPOLIS — Shots in the driveway and the sign hanging in the Virginia practice gym were Kyle Guy’s first thoughts when he realized a last-second whistle would send him to the free-throw line with a chance to lift Virginia into the national championship game.
“I literally told myself, ‘You dream of this moment,'” said Guy, who made three free throws with 0.6 seconds left to give the Cavaliers a 63-62 win over Auburn in the first national semifinal game at the Final Four on Saturday night.
“I don’t really have any words for how I feel. I’ve been pinching myself the whole time we’re in Minneapolis because it doesn’t feel real.”
Virginia will meet the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the championship final on Monday night after Texas Tech defeated Michigan State 61-51 in the second semifinal on Saturday night.
Time appeared to run off the clock as Guy launched a 3-pointer from the corner, but a foul was called on Samir Doughty, whose body made contact with Guy’s legs.
“My opinion as an administrator is, if that’s a foul, call it,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “But don’t let it define the game. Then you’re taking away from Ty Jerome. Taking away from Anfernee McLemore with 12 rebounds. Taking away from Bryce Brown almost leading us back to a great victory.
“Let’s not remember this game just for how it ended. It was a great college basketball game.”
Before Guy sealed the win, he made a 3 from the opposite corner, curling around a baseline screen.
Auburn junior Jared Harper made only one of two free throws with 5.4 seconds left to give the Tigers a 62-60 lead.
On the final possession, Guy missed a 3 from the corner and Auburn launched into a celebration as time appeared to expire.
“I was super surprised. They hadn’t been calling fouls all game,” Doughty said.
Guy buried his face in his jersey — although he claimed to hear the whistle and said he pulled up his jersey to focus for impending free throws — but the music stopped as officials converged at the scorer’s table and emerged with the verdict of three free throws.
“I don’t think it was a foul,” Auburn senior Bryce Brown said.
Harper said he didn’t see a foul but said the call “is not the reason we lost the game.”
Auburn’s furious rally in the final five minutes helped stage the dramatic finish, set up when Brown made three 3-pointers, including the go-ahead triple with 1:56 on the clock to give the Tigers a 59-57 lead.
McLemore made a pair of free throws to put the Tigers up four with 17 seconds left.
Cavaliers guard Ty Jerome, who had a game-high 21 points, was fouled near halfcourt with 1.5 seconds left, when Virginia coach Tony Bennett called timeout to set up Guy’s last-second 3 in the corner. Jerome appeared to double dribble before the whistle was blown, but Pearl said he told his players to move on to the next play.
Doughty led Auburn with 13 points and Brown had 12.
De’Andre Hunter swished a short jumper that stretched Virginia’s lead to seven, and Jerome’s uncontested longball from the right wing rolled in for a 57-47 Virginia lead with 5:24 to play, which brought a timeout and the first sign of panic on the face of the Tigers.
Even with Auburn’s perimeter shots coming up bricks, Virginia fell apart down the stretch, largely without Jerome. Brown sparked a 14-0 run with three 3-pointers from the corner — almost all in the same spot. As Jerome went to the bench with his fourth foul, Brown threatened to steal the show by finding his range.
Brown trimmed the lead to 57-51, sticking his second 3-pointer of the game with four minutes left after Jerome picked up his fourth foul — one minute after being whistled for No. 3 — defending 70 feet from the basket.
Brown hit another corner 3-pointer on a feed from Harper, and Danjel Purifoy hit a 10-footer to bring the Tigers within 57-56 with 2:48 to play
Virginia is the only No. 1 seed at the 2019 Final Four. Last year at this time, Guy pointed out the Cavaliers were a few weeks into spring conditioning. That’s because Virginia was the first No. 1 seed to ever lose to a No. 16 seed, bounced in Orlando by UMBC.
“I do feel for Auburn,” Bennett said. “But I feel better for us right now.”
Auburn led 31-28 at halftime — its largest lead in the first 20 minutes — despite shooting 3 of 14 from 3-point range.
Last weekend, Guy had 25 points and did his best to match Carsen Edwards’ shotmaking against Purdue to put the Cavaliers in the Final Four. In many ways, he built himself for the moment Saturday.
What about that sign in the Virginia practice gym?
“Success Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity,” Guy said.
–By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media
Texas Tech 61, Michigan St 51
When: 8:49 PM ET, Saturday, April 6, 2019
Where: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Officials: # Bo Boroski, # Jeffrey Anderson, # Doug Shows
Recap for Digital Sports Desk by Field Level Media
MINNEAPOLIS — One of the first summertime meetings coach Chris Beard held with Texas Tech’s basketball team in July included a challenge to the team: Make a reservation to play in the NCAA Tournament final.
“He told us, ‘We have enough talent in here to play on the final Monday of the season,'” said Matt Mooney, a fifth-year senior who scored a game-high 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting to spark the Red Raiders to a 61-51 victory over Michigan State on Saturday in their first-ever Final Four appearance.
The win gets Texas Tech that reservation for Monday night in the national championship game against Virginia.
“Very seldom in my career have we got beat up,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “I mean, they played really good defense. … That’s a tough, rugged team.”
Michigan State trailed for 30 minutes, 7 seconds in the 40-minute game and shot 31.9 percent from the field (15 of 47). Big Ten Player of the Year Cassius Winston had a team-best 16 points but shot 4 of 16 and committed four turnovers.
“Their defense is really, really good,” said Winston, who was dogged by Mooney most of the game. “They got their hands on a lot of balls. We could have been a lot better. But their defense was really good.”
Mooney, in his first year at Texas Tech as a graduate transfer and his third college overall, filled the hero role. Teammate Jarrett Culver, the Big 12 Player of the Year, was quiet until a raindrop right-handed runner gave Texas Tech its first field goal in five minutes and a 54-51 edge with 2:28 left.
Culver finished with 10 points.
“The thing that impressed me tonight was his courage,” Beard said of Mooney, who tied his season high in scoring and doubled his season average of 11 points per game. “When Michigan State was focused on Culver so much, Matt had the courage to step up and make those shots.”
A bid by Michigan State senior Matt McQuaid to tie the game with a long 3-point attempt with 1:52 to go rattled in and out, and Culver made the first of two free throws 20 seconds later.
On Michigan State’s next possession, Texas Tech got the ball back with its fourth steal of the game, this one by senior Norense Odiase. Culver then hit an uncontested trey from the top of the key, putting the Red Raiders up 58-51.
Odiase made two free throws to seal it with 39.7 seconds left after the Spartans’ Kenny Goins clanked a 3-point try.
The Spartans stayed in the game at the free-throw line, making 14 of their 18 attempts.
“It wasn’t really a game that we were really out of. It wasn’t a game that I ever felt comfortable in it,” Izzo said, giving further credit to Texas Tech’s constricting defense.
Sophomore Xavier Tillman rattled in two free throws after Winston connected on four consecutive shots from the stripe, and Michigan State whittled a 12-point deficit to five (52-47) with 5:38 remaining.
The Spartans cut it to three with just over three minutes to play on freshman Aaron Henry’s two makes, then made it 52-51 when Henry’s slashing layup went in with 2:44 left.
Texas Tech roared out of the halftime locker room with buckets on four of five possessions and took an eight-point lead — 39-31 — on a three-point play by Kyler Edwards. The freshman drove hard from the left baseline and moved the ball from his right to left hand, putting it off the glass as he was fouled.
On the next possession, Mooney connected on a 3-ball from the wing, and after a Michigan State turnover, he drilled another to stake Texas Tech to a 45-33 advantage, prompting a red-faced Izzo to call timeout.
“Mooney hit two shots, one with a guy right in his face and one that was right over here,” Izzo said. “I didn’t see it, it was so far out. They earned it, they deserved it.”
Most of the damage was done while Culver watched from the bench with three fouls.
Suffocating defense won the first half on either end, and neither team could find its legs. Only 15 of 49 field-goal attempts went through, and Texas Tech led 23-21 at the break.
“We knew we weren’t going to out-tough Michigan State,” said Beard, though by most postgame accounts in either locker room, the Red Raiders did that very thing. “We had a little team meeting (Sunday). I told them, that’s not going to happen. We’re going to try to equal their toughness. We’re going to try to compete in this game.
“The thing I’m most proud of is for 40 minutes, we went shot for shot with one of the all-time greats in college basketball.”
Texas Tech’s reservation awaits.
–By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media