MINNEAPOLIS, MN (WSFA) - Both Auburn and Virginia had a lot on the line heading into Saturday’s Final Four matchup. For both it was a chance to have a shot at their first national title.
Virginia (34-3) is headed to its first national championship after defeating Auburn (30-9) 63-62 in the Final Four.
It was a guy, but not just any ordinary guy, Virginia’s Kyle Guy shot his team into Monday night’s championship game. Literally. Auburn held a 61-57 with 17 seconds remaining in the game. After a dead ball, Virginia took it out underneath the basket, Guy sprang to the corner and swished an open three to make it 61-60.
Virginia couldn’t force Auburn into a 10-second turnover, but instead forced Jared Harper to call a timeout. After the timeout left Auburn with one remaining, Harper - one of Auburn’s best free throw shooters - was fouled and sent to the line with 7 seconds to play.
Harper shoots above 80 percent from the charity stripe, but after making the first free throw, missed the second. Auburn held just a 62-60 lead as the Cavaliers’ Ty Jerome dribbled up the court.
After Jerome nearly turned the ball over, Auburn elected to foul instead of allowing the Hoos to get off a potential game-winning shot. That foul was followed up by another Auburn foul as they had plenty to give.
With 2 seconds remaining, Virginia used its last timeout to set up an out of bounds play. The next turn of events will be etched into the minds of both Virginia and Auburn fans for as long as they live.
Guy rolled towards the corner for a three after receiving the inbounded pass, rose up for the shot and had it bounce off the side of the rim, and for an instant it looked as if the Auburn Tigers - a No. 5 seed - were headed to their first national championship game, but there was a whistle blown for a foul.
A foul was called on Auburn’s Samir Doughty as Guy was coming down from his shot. Contact was made and Guy was given a second opportunity to send his team to the championship.
Entering the game shooting 70 percent as a team from the line on the season, Virginia struggled all night long. Up to this point, they’d been 3 of 9 from the stripe but Guy nailed the first two to tie the game before Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl signaled for a timeout. With less than a second to go on the clock, Guy hit the third free throw to give the Cavaliers a momentary 63-62 lead.
As Auburn inbounded the ball via a baseball-style pass, a twisting Bryce Brown threw up a shot that didn’t come close to going in and thus, heartbreak had set in for the Tigers and jubilation for the Cavaliers.
It was deja vu for Auburn whose season nearly ended in the first round of the tournament against New Mexico State. In that game, it was Brown who fouled New Mexico State’s Terrell Brown on a three-point attempt with 1 second remaining in nearly the same identical spot that Guy was fouled Saturday night. The difference in the two games was Terrell Brown made one of three free throws with his team down two points. Auburn would escape with a 78-77 victory.
After Auburn had used a 12-0 run to capture a 59-57 lead with 1:57 left to play, it seemed like they’d initially inserted the dagger into the chests of the Cavaliers, but the Hoos kept their composure.
All game long the two teams had gone back and forth, with Auburn gaining momentary advantages - even leading 31-28 at halftime. But it was being played at the place that the Virginia Cavaliers wanted.
Auburn’s fast break, run-and-gun offense was kept in check by the structured Hoos. With the key being the screen and roll game for Auburn, Virginia played it almost perfectly all night long.
The Tigers were off to a slow start from beyond the arc, making just 3 of 14 attempts and would only finish 9 of 31. Virginia shot fewer times but connected more often, knocking down 7 of its 19 attempts.
Where they’d combined to score nearly 42 percent of Auburn’s points this tournament, Brown and Harper were held to just 23 combined points Saturday night, with Brown leading the team in scoring with 12 points.
For Virginia, three of its five starters finished in double figures, with Ty Jerome’s 21 leading the way.
It is still a season to be celebrated for the Auburn Tigers. Along the way to the Final Four, the Tigers obliterated Kansas and North Carolina before defeating Kentucky in overtime in the Elite 8. They’d nearly pulled off another monumental victory in the Final Four.
Virginia will take on the winner of the Michigan State vs. Texas Tech Monday night in the national championship game.