MINNEAPOLIS - Shots in the driveway and the sign hanging in the Virginia practice gym were Kyle Guy’s first thoughts when he realized a last-second whistle would send him to the free-throw line with a chance to lift Virginia into the national championship game.
“I literally told myself, ‘You dream of this moment,’” said Guy, who made three free throws with 0.6 seconds left to give the Cavaliers a 63-62 win over Auburn in the first national semifinal game at the Final Four on Saturday night.
“I don’t really have any words for how I feel. I’ve been pinching myself the whole time we’re in Minneapolis because it doesn’t feel real.”
Virginia will meet the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the championship final on Monday night after Texas Tech defeated Michigan State 61-51 in the second semifinal on Saturday night.
Time appeared to run off the clock as Guy launched a 3-pointer from the corner, but a foul was called on Samir Doughty, whose body made contact with Guy’s legs.
“My opinion as an administrator is, if that’s a foul, call it,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “But don’t let it define the game. Then you’re taking away from Ty Jerome. Taking away from Anfernee McLemore with 12 rebounds. Taking away from Bryce Brown almost leading us back to a great victory.
“Let’s not remember this game just for how it ended. It was a great college basketball game.”
Before Guy sealed the win, he made a 3 from the opposite corner, curling around a baseline screen.
Auburn junior Jared Harper made only one of two free throws with 5.4 seconds left to give the Tigers a 62-60 lead.
On the final possession, Guy missed a 3 from the corner and Auburn launched into a celebration as time appeared to expire.
“I was super surprised. They hadn’t been calling fouls all game,” Doughty said.
Guy buried his face in his jersey — although he claimed to hear the whistle and said he pulled up his jersey to focus for impending free throws — but the music stopped as officials converged at the scorer’s table and emerged with the verdict of three free throws.
“I don’t think it was a foul,” Auburn senior Bryce Brown said.
Harper said he didn’t see a foul but said the call “is not the reason we lost the game.”
Auburn’s furious rally in the final five minutes helped stage the dramatic finish, set up when Brown made three 3-pointers, including the go-ahead triple with 1:56 on the clock to give the Tigers a 59-57 lead.
McLemore made a pair of free throws to put the Tigers up four with 17 seconds left.
Cavaliers guard Ty Jerome, who had a game-high 21 points, was fouled near halfcourt with 1.5 seconds left, when Virginia coach Tony Bennett called timeout to set up Guy’s last-second 3 in the corner. Jerome appeared to double dribble before the whistle was blown, but Pearl said he told his players to move on to the next play.
Doughty led Auburn with 13 points and Brown had 12.
De’Andre Hunter swished a short jumper that stretched Virginia’s lead to seven, and Jerome’s uncontested longball from the right wing rolled in for a 57-47 Virginia lead with 5:24 to play, which brought a timeout and the first sign of panic on the face of the Tigers.
Even with Auburn’s perimeter shots coming up bricks, Virginia fell apart down the stretch, largely without Jerome. Brown sparked a 14-0 run with three 3-pointers from the corner — almost all in the same spot. As Jerome went to the bench with his fourth foul, Brown threatened to steal the show by finding his range.
Brown trimmed the lead to 57-51, sticking his second 3-pointer of the game with four minutes left after Jerome picked up his fourth foul — one minute after being whistled for No. 3 — defending 70 feet from the basket.
Brown hit another corner 3-pointer on a feed from Harper, and Danjel Purifoy hit a 10-footer to bring the Tigers within 57-56 with 2:48 to play
Virginia is the only No. 1 seed at the 2019 Final Four. Last year at this time, Guy pointed out the Cavaliers were a few weeks into spring conditioning. That’s because Virginia was the first No. 1 seed to ever lose to a No. 16 seed, bounced in Orlando by UMBC.
“I do feel for Auburn,” Bennett said. “But I feel better for us right now.”
Auburn led 31-28 at halftime — its largest lead in the first 20 minutes — despite shooting 3 of 14 from 3-point range.
Last weekend, Guy had 25 points and did his best to match Carsen Edwards’ shotmaking against Purdue to put the Cavaliers in the Final Four. In many ways, he built himself for the moment Saturday.
What about that sign in the Virginia practice gym?
“Success Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity,” Guy said.
—By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media