From embarrassment to a National Championship. From worst to first. Tony Bennett and the Virginia Cavaliers just wrote one of the best comeback stories in sport’s history. Here’s how a pesky, determined Virginia team just won its first National Title:
UVA Silences Its Doubters
After suffering the worst loss in the history of basketball, many thought Virginia simply wasn’t built for March success. Many thought Tony Bennett’s style of play wouldn’t ever lead to a National Championship. On Monday night against Texas Tech, The Cavaliers proved it’s many critics wrong. De’Andre Hunter and Kyle Guy lead the way with 51 points combined, including a timely three from the corner by Hunter to tie it with under 20 seconds left. Ty Jerome chipped in with 16 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
Jarrett Culver and Davide Moretti paced the Red Raiders with 15 points each, with Brandone Francis scoring 17 off the bench. With the game tied, Culver missed a three-pointer with four seconds left, which sent the game to OT. It was the first title game to go to overtime since 2008. The Cavaliers would eventually pull away, securing the first National Title in school history.
Winning a National Championship obviously requires a lot of talent and chemistry, but also a little bit of luck and big-time shots. Think about Virginia’s road to the title game, and keep in mind the mental challenge of not allowing what happened a year ago to happen again. In the opening game of the tournament, no. 16 seed Gardner-Webb actually led Virginia at the half. In the Sweet 16, Virginia trailed once again at halftime, this time to Oregon. It required a miraculous buzzer-beating floater by Mamadi Diakite to get by Purdue in the Elite Eight.
Furthermore, it took three free throws in the final second to beat Auburn by one point to reach the National Championship. Even then, Virginia was staring at defeat until De’Andre Hunter’s clutch, late three-pointer sent the game into overtime against Texas Tech. With their backs against the wall, Virginia was able to answer. After the unimaginable loss to UMBC a year ago and being seconds away from elimination in their final four games, this says a lot about the mental toughness from Tony Bennett as a coach and his players.
Look for Virginia to make yet another deep run next season, as they return almost everyone from this past season.
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