Cavaliers survive late run from Tigers to make first national title game

Virginia, the only No. 1 seed to make the Final Four, advanced on Saturday night with a 63-62 win against Auburn at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The game was played at Virginia’s pace, with patient possessions for the Wahoos on offense and limited fast break opportunities for the usually up-tempo Tigers. Ty Jerome had one of his best games of the 2019 NCAA Tournament, connecting on a few jump shots early and finishing with 21 points on 8-for-16 shooting.

Auburn pushed late with a 9-0 run in the game’s final minutes, cutting Virginia’s lead to one with 2:17 left and eventually taking the lead. Virginia ultimately scored the final six points of the game thanks to a last-second foul of Kyle Guy on a 3-point attempt.

Guy, an 81.8 percent free throw shooter on the season, knocked down two of the three free throws before Auburn took a timeout. After the break, Guy sank the last free throw.

Here are three things to know about the game:

1. Auburn played well enough to win: This loss will sting for a long time in the hearts of Auburn fans. The final run to close the game was reminiscent of many that this Tigers team put together during the 12-game winning streak that carried across the SEC Tournament and into the NCAA Tournament. After Kentucky had tried to slow Auburn down, Virginia did the same, and just like that Elite Eight game the Tigers were able to make a run late. The only difference was this time the opponent did hit its free throws.

2. Virginia seems to know things broke their way: Bennett said after the game he hoped the foul call was right, Guy acknowledged the potential for controversy with the ending and neither of them had yet been informed about Ty Jerome’s double-dribble no-call. You won’t find much sympathy from this Virginia team though, especially after carrying all the weight from last season’s First Round upset against UMBC. This group has been fighting narratives all year, and if a few things break its way after decades of falling short of the Final Four, I don’t think anyone from Virginia is going to feel undeserving with the opportunity to play for a national championship on Monday.

3. Kyle Guy had to be one with the game on the line: Guy hadn’t been the star for most of the game, that was Jerome. But when this season has hinged on the brink at times this season Virginia has consistently needed its junior sharpshooter to come up with big plays. Guy experienced a shooting slump for long stretches of the postseason but broke out in Louisville during the South Regional final against Purdue. Still during that stretch, he’s offered support on defense, especially rebounding, and facilitating the offense to help power this historic run for the program.

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