ZAMOFF: Resilient Cavaliers survive and advance

Guy makes three free throws to send Virginia to the first National Championship in program history

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Junior guard Kyle Guy scored 6 of his 15 points in the game's last 10 seconds to send Virginia to victory.

Christina Anton | Cavalier Daily

It’s March 16, 2018. Then-sophomore guard Kyle Guy is bent over, hands on his knees. Virginia has just suffered a historical loss against No. 16 seed UMBC.

The loss had a huge emotional impact on Guy, who struggled at times with the weight of the defeat. An SB Nation article from earlier this year documented how Guy has approached the game differently this season and reconciled with the loss.

Guy’s Twitter profile picture documents the moment of defeat, and he has not shied away from talking about it.

Fast forward to April 6, 2019.

Guy’s redemption is almost complete. His three-pointer and three free throws in the closing seconds against Auburn put the Cavaliers in the program’s first ever National Championship this Monday night.

Just like last week against Purdue, Virginia did it in miraculous fashion against Auburn.

Virginia appeared to be headed for victory with 5:24 remaining. A three from junior guard Ty Jerome had the Cavaliers up 57-47, their biggest lead of the game. Jerome was outstanding in the game, finishing with a game-high 21 points and 6 assists, to go along with nine rebounds.

But then he got in foul trouble, and the Tigers capitalized. After missing a jumper with 4:36 left to play, Jerome picked up his fourth foul and was forced to go to the bench.

Auburn senior guard Bryce Brown scored a three on the subsequent possession, sending the Tigers on a 12-0 run that led them to go ahead 59-57 with 1:57 to go. Brown made three three-pointers on the run, including the go-ahead jumper. The Tigers’ leading scorer finished with just 12 points on the day, however, stymied by the Cavaliers’ stingy defense.

Jerome came back in with the Cavaliers needing a basket in clutch time, but he came up short on three-pointers in two consecutive possessions, forcing Virginia to foul to stand a chance.

Junior forward Anfernee McLemore sank two free throws to seemingly put the game out of reach, 61-57 with just 17 seconds left.

But then Guy came up with a bit of March magic. He drained a corner three with the defender draped all over him to cut Auburn’s lead to one, 61-60 with just nine seconds left.

The Cavaliers fouled, and Auburn junior guard Jared Harper made the first and missed the second, giving Virginia a chance to tie or win with seven seconds remaining. After a couple fouls by Auburn and a timeout, Virginia had a chance to get up one last shot with less than two seconds remaining.

At first, it seemed the Cavaliers were headed for another defeat in the NCAA Tournament. After Guy missed the baseline three and the Auburn fans roared, it seemed like Virginia had fallen one game short of the National Championship for the third time in the school’s history.

But it actually wasn’t over, even though the buzzer had sounded.

Obscured by the Tigers’ fans joyous roars, the referee had called a foul on Guy’s three-point attempt, giving the junior guard one last shot at redemption for Virginia.

In clutch fashion, Guy stepped up and sank all three free throws, bringing Virginia within one game of glory. It was the second consecutive miraculous win for the Cavaliers, and their run is not over in the NCAA Tournament.

The big three were certainly crucial in this contest, with Guy, Jerome and sophomore guard De’Andre Hunter leading the way for Virginia with 15, 21 and 14 points, respectively.

While Jerome led Virginia’s attack in the first half — scoring 13 of the Cavaliers’ 28 first-half points — Hunter was the man in the second half. He had 10 of his 14 points in the second half and was more assertive in getting to the rim.

The role of freshman guard Kihei Clark cannot be understated either. Clark scored nine points and for the most part locked down Harper, the engine of the Tigers’ offensive attack. A week after coming up with a miraculous crosscourt pass to keep Virginia alive against Purdue, Clark delivered another mature, composed and gritty performance for the Cavaliers.

Virginia is headed to the National Championship. Coach Tony Bennett and company are one win away from securing the first National Championship in program history.

Late-game magic from Guy got them there today, but it has taken a team effort to make this tournament run happen for the Cavaliers. This group of guys have been through defeat and victory together. Through it all, they have been resilient.

The next step in that run is Monday at 9:20 p.m. against Texas Tech. The game will be aired on CBS.

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