Kyle Guy, UVA Survive Texas Tech in OT, Win 1st-Ever NCAA National Championship

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 9, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - APRIL 08:  De'Andre Hunter #12 of the Virginia Cavaliers celebrates his three point basket basket late in the second half against the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the 2019 NCAA men's Final Four National Championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 08, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Virginia Cavaliers were a national punchline on March 16, 2018.

They became national champions on April 8, 2019.

A season after becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 in the history of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, Virginia won the national title on Monday with an 85-77 overtime victory over the Texas Tech Red Raiders at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

The trio of De'Andre Hunter (27 points and seven boards), Kyle Guy (24 points) and Ty Jerome (16 points, nine assists and eight rebounds) led the Cavaliers to their first national championship in program history. Hunter saved the game with a three-pointer with 12 seconds left in regulation to tie the score and hit the three in overtime that put his team ahead for good.

The Red Raiders fell one win short of their first title despite a balanced offensive attack with five players in double figures, including Jarrett Culver (15 points, nine rebounds and six assists), Davide Moretti (15 points) and Brandone Francis (17 points).

For all the worries about slow pace, defensive struggles and poor shooting coming into the game, college basketball fans could not have asked for a more memorable stretch to end regulation.

Virginia went up four with less than two minutes remaining behind Hunter's jumper and Guy's layup, but Moretti answered with a three to cut the deficit to one. Culver gave his team the lead in the lane after a Norense Odiase block and tussle for a loose ball between the Texas Tech star and Guy, and the Red Raiders were on the verge of cutting down the nets after two Odiase free throws extended the advantage to three.

However, Hunter drilled the game-tying three and grabbed the rebound that would have forced overtime had he not thrown it out of bounds when Guy was motioning for a timeout. Fortunately for the ultimate hero, he avoided Chris Webber-like infamy when Braxton Key blocked Culver's potential game-winner at the buzzer.

The Cavaliers then took over in the extra period and secured their fate as program legends.

The 162 combined points stand out considering the primary storyline entering play was defense, with Texas Tech No. 1 and Virginia No. 5 in KenPom's pace-adjusted rankings. It appeared as if a slugfest would break out when the Red Raiders needed more than seven minutes to score their first field goal.

It was a credit to Virginia's ability to swarm ball-handlers, throw off offensive sets, contest every jumper and protect the rim with length and athleticism that the Big 12 representative struggled out of the gates, and the Cavaliers' glacial pace made it seem as if they would gradually pull away.

After all, Texas Tech's previous largest deficit in the entire tournament was just five points, and it looked to be pressing when it fell behind by double digits in the first half.

The Red Raiders needed someone to make plays, but Culver—the best NBA prospect in the contest who Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman projected as the No. 4 pick—missed all six of his field-goal attempts in the first half as he was swarmed by Hunter and was 5-of-22 for the game.

Enter Francis, who provided a critical spark off the bench with multiple threes and rebounding. The outside shooting from him and Moretti, as well as a dunk and timely boards from Tariq Owens, was enough for Texas Tech to storm back and take the lead.

That Owens was even playing was a testament to his toughness, as Scott Gleeson of USA Today noted he suffered a high ankle sprain during Saturday's win over Michigan State and was in a walking boot leading up to Monday's contest.

Like Texas Tech, Virginia needed others outside its potential lottery pick to survive a run from the opponent. Hunter made a mere one field goal in the first half, but Jerome's buzzer-beater gave the ACC school the lead at intermission after Guy helped weather the storm with his veteran leadership and shooting.

The two sides started trading blows out of the locker rooms with Guy operating the Virginia offense with the smooth calmness that helped him maintain his composure when he drilled three free throws with 0.6 seconds left on Saturday to defeat Auburn.

As if that wasn't enough, Jerome stuffed the stat sheet and had just one turnover despite serving as a primary ball-handler against the nation's best defense.

The missing piece for stretches was Hunter's shooting, but Texas Tech remained within striking distance even when he finally found his stroke from deep. That was largely because Culver sensed the urgency of the moment and started attacking the basket instead of settling for jumpers, which helped him facilitate down the stretch.

Still, the combination of Hunter, Jerome and Guy was too much with the game on the line, just like it was all season for the new national champions.

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