EditorsNote: updates with quotes
Virginia needed a wild buzzer-beating play to force overtime and had to survive a scoring onslaught by Purdue guard Carsen Edwards to advance to its first Final Four since 1984.
The top-seeded Cavaliers beat the third-seeded Boilermakers 80-75 in the NCAA Tournament’s South Region in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday night.
“There was a burning desire to get these guys and our program to a Final Four and hopefully beyond,” said Virginia coach Tony Bennett.
Edwards scored 42 points but missed a potential go-ahead 3-pointer with nine seconds left in overtime. Kyle Guy corralled the rebound and was fouled with 5.7 seconds left. He made both to make it 78-75.
On the ensuing possession, Edwards passed the ball from halfcourt, but the pass went out of bounds along the sideline with 2.1 seconds left. Kihei Clark’s two free throws sealed the win.
“Obviously, a special performance by Carsen,” said Purdue coach Matt Painter.
“It’s exciting when you beat somebody like Tennessee to get into the Elite Eight ... and then you play a game that see-saws like it did against Virginia, and you don’t get a couple of breaks and they make a special play at the end. That’s part of competition.
“The other night was pretty cool. Today sucks.”
Virginia (33-3) will play the winner of Sunday’s Midwest Region final between second-seeded Kentucky and No. 5 Auburn.
Purdue (26-10) led 70-67 when it fouled Ty Jerome with 5.9 seconds to go, sending him to the line in a one-and-one situation. He made the first and missed the second, with Virginia’s Mamadi Diakite tipping the ball all the way into the backcourt.
Clark chased it down and fired a pass back to Diakite, whose buzzer-beating 8-foot jumper from just outside the lane sent the game into overtime.
“Kihei made the play of the century by finding Mamadi,” Jerome said.
“It was just unbelievable,” Diakite said.
“So improbable,” Bennett said.
It’s all especially sweet for Virginia, which last season became the first No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament history to lose to a 16 seed.
“We’re just so happy. We worked so hard for this,” Guy said. “We’ve come so far. With the way last year ended, everyone probably counted us out. But, man, I’m so proud of our guys.”
Guy counter-punched with Edwards, scoring 21 of his 25 points after intermission with five 3-pointers. He went 3 for 3 from behind the arc in the first five minutes of the second half to turn a 30-29 halftime deficit into a 41-34 lead.
Guy also grabbed 10 rebounds, while Jerome scored 24 points.
Edwards, who averaged 34.8 points in four NCAA Tournament games, made 14 of 25 shots from the field, including 10 of 19 from 3-point range. He shot from increasing distance in the second half against a Virginia defense that entered the game as the stingiest in the nation, allowing 54.8 points per game.
He even banked in a trey with 1:10 to go in regulation for a 69-67 lead.
“I just felt pretty comfortable,” he said. “Never do I feel like I need to carry the team, because we’re all putting everything into the game. ... It’s just I felt good and had rhythm on the shots I was taking, and they were just able to go in.”
Virginia led 74-73 after De’Andre Hunter made two free throws with 1:43 to go in overtime. Edwards drove the lane to make a short shot with 42.4 seconds to go, but Hunter responded with a drive of his own as the Cavaliers reclaimed a 76-75 lead with 28 seconds left.
Edwards worked to get a step-back 3-point attempt with nine seconds to go but the shot went off the rim.
“I told him after the game that I have a lot of respect for him and that he’s a bad dude,” Guy said. “I have never witnessed anything like that.”
—Field Level Media