March Madness was an exhilarating experience for Virginia and Texas Tech, who met in Monday’s NCAA Tournament final, with Virginia defeating Texas Tech 85-77 in overtime to capture its first championship.
The path to the championship game wasn’t an easy trip, especially for Virginia. After escaping Purdue in a close OT victory in the Elite Eight, Virginia faced Auburn Saturday night in the Final Four. Behind Ty Jerome’s 21 point performance and Kyle Guy’s clutch free throws, Virginia was able to hold off Auburn, 63-62.
Texas Tech had a smoother trip to the championship. Since the first round, Texas Tech has defeated every opponent by double digits excluding Gonzaga. They went on to defeat Michigan State 61-51 in the Final Four. Their trip to the championship was the first in their program’s history.
This was the first meeting between Texas Tech and Virginia. In addition, this was also the first national championship game with two first-time participants since 1979.
Virginia came out with high energy and efficiency on both ends of the floor. They outrebounded Texas Tech 21-13 in the first half, while shooting a solid 45 percent from the 3-point range. Virginia led Texas Tech 32-29 at halftime thanks to a buzzer-beater Jerome three. They extended that lead to eight early in the second half.
While Texas Tech had 14 fouls in the first half, they did not allow their foul to hinder their progress. But after an explosive barrage of three’s and conversions by Virginia, it looked as if the Cavaliers were going to cruise to the win.
Texas Tech’s and Virginia’s energy began to pick up a few minutes into the second half. Three-pointers back and forth kept the crowd on their feet.
However, Virginia’s shooting ability was too much for them to overcome. Virginia shot nearly 50 percent from the three-point field in that second half. However, the Red Raiders continued to battle and came back to lead 68-65 with 20 seconds left. Virginia ball.
With 12 seconds left, Jerome drove into the lane, forcing the Red Raider defense to collapse. Jerome whipped a pass to a wide open De’Andre Hunter, who knocked down the game-typing FG to send the Cavaliers into overtime.
Hunter continued to play at an elite level, scoring five points in overtime. His defensive play was remarkable as well, poking the ball away on a crucial last-minute possession. It was a controversial call, but the officials reversed the call and Virginia got the ball. Virginia proceeded to inbounds the ball and made a wide open dunk on the other end.
An incredible performance from De’Andre Hunter made this possible. De’Andre Hunter put up 27 points on 8-16 shooting.
Virginia’s championship completes one of the most remarkable turnarounds in college basketball history. A year ago, Virginia made history by being the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16. seed.
Virginia overcame a lot on their path to the championship, beginning with the OT scare against Purdue and then another heart-pounding finish against Auburn. Now, they are crowned champions.
It was a crushing defeat for Texas Tech and head coach Chris Beard. Being up by three with 22 seconds remaining, many thought the Red Raiders would be the champions. They saw the title slip away. Nevertheless, they had a fantastic run. Beard has now established himself as one of the premier young coaches in the NCAA.
With the shadow of last year’s loss to No. 16 seed UMBC, this was a bitter-sweet moment for the Virginia Cavaliers. Jerome told ESPN, “Forget last year. This is everything you dream of since you’re a little kid…I’m not even thinking about UMBC right now.”
Virginia will retain most of their core and enters 2020 as early favorites to repeat at 7-1 odds, according to Vegas sportsbooks.