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Reliving the five best moments of Virginia men’s basketball’s national championship run

One year later, a look back at how the Cavaliers made history

<p>Virginia fans had more than their fair share of heart-stopping moments during the Cavaliers' 2019 national championship run.&nbsp;</p>

Virginia fans had more than their fair share of heart-stopping moments during the Cavaliers' 2019 national championship run. 

One year ago on this date, the Virginia men’s basketball team won its first NCAA national championship in school history.

After a second consecutive season in which the Cavaliers won at least a share of the regular season title, Virginia came into the 2019 NCAA Tournament a No. 1 seed, just as it had in 2018.

This time, Coach Tony Bennett and the Cavaliers made history in a different way, putting past tournament woes behind them. Virginia advanced to its first Final Four since 1984 and then made program history when it beat Texas Tech in overtime to win the national title. The Cavaliers did so in miraculous fashion, down by at least three points in the final 20 seconds of their last three games.

Here is a look back at the five most memorable moments of Virginia’s tournament run:

5. Virginia overcomes a 14-point deficit against Gardner Webb

They said it:

“It was one thing I said to my staff, and we just talked right before we went in there. I said, uplift them, and we talked about don't panic, but play with fight, because that's what got them back in.” — Coach Tony Bennett

What made it memorable:

Despite having another excellent regular season, Virginia came into the NCAA Tournament with a great burden. The Cavaliers’ loss to UMBC during the 2018 NCAA tournament had to have been on their minds, as they started their tournament campaign against another 16-seed that seemed unable to miss. Gardner-Webb took a 30-16 lead with 6:43 left in the first half, and it felt like deja vu for many Virginia fans.

The Cavaliers did not panic this time, however, and their offense came to life at the end of the first half just as the Bulldogs’ shooting cooled off. They went into halftime down by just six points then went on a 25-5 run in the first ten minutes of the second half to secure a 55-41 lead. Virginia cruised the rest of the way to victory, overcoming both Gardner-Webb and its previous year’s demons. Forward Mamadi Diakite stood out with 17 points on 8-for-10 shooting and 9 rebounds, and guard De’Andre Hunter led all scorers with 23 points. The Cavaliers’ comeback showed a resilience that would be key down the stretch of their tournament run.

4. Carsen Edwards vs. Virginia

They said it:

“If nobody asked that, I was going to ask to add something and just speak on what he did tonight … That was the best performance I’ve ever seen.” — guard Ty Jerome

What made it memorable:

In arguably the best game of the NCAA Tournament, Virginia came out miraculously victorious in spite of an incredible individual performance by Purdue guard Carsen Edwards. Over the course of the NCAA Tournament, Edwards scored 139 points — in just four games — and made a tournament-record 28 three-pointers.

He appeared unstoppable in the Elite Eight contest, making three-pointer after three-pointer from beyond NBA range. Edwards scored 42 of Purdue’s 75 points. There was a stretch in the second half when Virginia seemed to be on the point of breaking away from the Boilermakers, but Edwards answered with another contested shot that kept his team in the game. Whether it was 2019 ACC Defensive Player of the Year Hunter or fiesty guard Kihei Clark, Virginia could not stop Edwards. He made a stepback, contested three off the backboard with 1:11 left in the game to give Purdue a 69-67 lead. While it ultimately would not be enough to give the Boilermakers’ a Final Four bid, Edwards’ performance will not be forgotten.

3. Kyle Guy’s free throws against Auburn

They said it:

“I could lie to you and say I knew I was going to hit them, but I was terrified.” — guard Kyle Guy

What made it memorable:

Guard Kyle Guy was the face of last year’s Virginia team in many ways and was at the heart of the Cavaliers’ redemption story. Guy’s Twitter profile throughout the season was a picture of him after the UMBC game, head down and hands on his knees in defeat. He repeatedly spoke out about how the loss impacted him emotionally and how he and his teammates had come to a point of accepting it as a part of Virginia’s story.

This made Guy — independent of his excellent free throw shooting percentage — the perfect guy for the Cavaliers to have on the line to send them to the first national championship game in school history. It was a hard-fought game against Auburn. Guy made a three-pointer with less than ten seconds left to keep Virginia in the contest and then drew a foul on a three-pointer with 0.6 seconds remaining. Regardless of controversy behind the call, he had to step up and make all three free throws. As the Final Four Most Outstanding Player, Guy sank all of them, sending Virginia to the national title game.

2. ‘The Shot’

They said it:

“As soon as I caught it and was dribbling, I saw [Diakite] right away. Amazing feeling to get the win. I’m at a loss for words, but yeah, it feels great.” — guard Kihei Clark

What made it memorable:

A fitting end to an incredible second half, ‘The Shot’ will always be remembered by Virginia fans as the play that kept the Cavaliers’ magical run alive. It was a combination of improbable fortune and quite a bit of skill that made it feel like Virginia was a team of destiny. Purdue was up 70-67, and Jerome was at the free throw line with 5.9 seconds left. He swished the first but missed the second off the front rim. Diakite tapped it out past halfcourt, and Clark hustled to retrieve it, before pulling off an incredible one-handed touch pass — in which he looked off both Guy and Jerome — straight to Diakite’s shooting pocket. Diakite caught it in a jump stop and immediately shot it over the arms of 7-foot-3 center Matt Haarms at the buzzer to send the game to overtime.

To add to the drama, play-by-play announcer Brian Anderson said, “Diakite, for the win” before he immediately corrected that the shot actually tied the game. Virginia still had to win overtime. The Cavaliers eventually did in a hard-fought extra period, with Hunter coming on late with a clutch drive to put Virginia ahead for good. As Bennett cut down the nets in Louisville, Ky. with joy, it was clear the Cavaliers’ March woes were behind them.

1. The Cardiac Cavs win the national championship in overtime

They said it:

“It's a great story. That's probably the best way I can end this. It's a great story.” — Coach Tony Bennett

What made it memorable:

Just like their previous three games, the Cavaliers’ national championship victory went down to the wire. Following the narratives of the Purdue and Auburn games, Virginia led for almost all of the second half, but trailed late. After a weak first half performance, Hunter scored 22 points in the second half, including the game-tying three with 12 seconds left off a pass from Jerome. Guard Braxton Key came up with a huge block as time expired on Texas Tech star guard Jarrett Culver to send the game into overtime. Overtime was also close until the end. A Hunter three-pointer got the Cavaliers going, and excellent free-throw shooting — they were 12 for 12 from the line in overtime — propelled Virginia to its title.

Virginia’s “big three” of Hunter, Jerome and Guy combined for 67 of Virginia’s 85 points in the game. All three were subsequently named to the Final Four All-Tournament Team. Part of the same 2016 recruiting class, all three came to Virginia to accomplish what had never been done before — win a national championship. They overcame defeat in 2018 to win it all in 2019, completing a story of incredible resilience. For longtime Cavaliers fans, the story goes beyond just this team. Many great Virginia players who fell just a little short — Ralph Sampson, Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogdon, just to name a few — came to Minneapolis to congratulate the 2019 national champions. Bennett’s pillar of unity was on display as current and former players rejoiced to celebrate all the work that had gone into the miraculous title run.

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