LOUISVILLE — Perhaps Mamadi Diakite’s description of his buzzer-beating jump shot suited the unassuming, even-keeled nature that has come to define the Virginia Cavaliers. Perhaps he was simply speechless at the play that saved their season.
“I don’t know,” the redshirt junior said when asked to chronicle the desperate but crisply executed sequence. “It happened. I was the person who was designed to take it, and I don’t know. I took it, and it went in. I was happy and ready for the next five minutes.”
In the most memorable moment of this NCAA tournament so far, the forward-center caught a pass from Kihei Clark with 1.2 seconds to play and sank an eight-footer as the horn sounded to tie Saturday’s South Region final against Purdue at 70. The top-seeded Cavaliers would go on to scrape out an 80-75 overtime victory over the third-seeded Boilermakers to clinch the program’s first Final Four appearance since 1984.
The victory came 10 years ago to the day that Tony Bennett was announced as the Cavaliers’ coach.
Sitting behind Bennett during Saturday’s game was his father Dick, who directed Wisconsin to the Final Four in 2000. They became the second father-son pair to take to reach the Final Four, following John Thompson and John Thompson III at Georgetown.
“It was great,” Bennett said. “We said it before, the joy of competition, the fun and the pursuit of trying to win a championship, and we didn’t win a championship, but we got to the Final Four. Of course it was exhilarating.”
So too was the final play of regulation, which is certain to go down in Cavaliers lore. Purdue had a chance to take a four-point lead with 16.9 seconds left in regulation, but Ryan Cline missed the second of two free throws. The Boilermakers, playing to avoid a tying three-pointer, fouled Cavaliers guard Ty Jerome 11 seconds later.
Jerome made the first of his free throws to cut the deficit to 70-68, and Diakite tipped the ball into the backcourt after Jerome missed the second. Kihei Clark gathered the loose ball and passed roughly half the court to Diakite, whose short jumper was true as the buzzer sounded.
De’Andre Hunter put Virginia ahead to stay at 76-75 with a driving layup with 27 seconds to play in the extra frame, and Kyle Guy followed with two free throws with 5.7 seconds remaining to complete a 25-point performance.
It took all of it to overcome an electrifying performance by Purdue guard Carsen Edwards, who scored 42 points but missed a shot late in overtime with the Boilermakers trailing by a point.
The junior went 10 for 19 from beyond the three-point arc, practically willing Purdue to the brink of the Final Four. He was named the regional’s most outstanding player, the first from a losing team to do so Davidson’s Stephen Curry. Edwards finished the tournament with 139 points in four games.
No other Purdue player scored more than seven points Saturday in the program’s first appearance in the regional finals since 2000.
“First of all, I want to congratulate Virginia,” said Boilermakers Coach Matt Painter, whose team played essentially a home game with its fans far outnumbering the those of the Cavaliers. “Obviously it was a hard-fought game, and I thought our guys did a great job of hanging in there. Obviously a special performance by Carsen shooting the basketball.”
The Cavaliers (33-3) were able to overcome the transcendent showing from Edwards in large part thanks to Guy reclaiming the shooting touch that had betrayed him through the first three games of the NCAA tournament and the first half against Purdue (26-10).
Guy made his first three-pointer of the game 26 seconds into the second half to give Virginia it’s first lead, 32-30. Virginia’s second-leading scorer made three more in a row after having gone 3 for 28 combined from beyond the arc in the NCAA tournament.
Guy made five three-pointers in the second half and got two important defensive rebounds in the closing seconds of overtime.
“So happy for my teammates and my coaches and for myself to be able to break through in the way that we did this year,” Guy said.
Two free throws from Hunter put Virginia in front, 74-73, with 1:43 left in overtime, and the Cavaliers were in position to add to the lead when Edwards missed a jumper and Guy secured the rebound.
But with one minute to play, Hunter lost the ball out of bounds while trying to dribble to the rim, and Edwards got a floater from steps inside the free throw line to fall, giving the Boilermakers a 75-74 lead with 42 seconds to go.
Edwards matched his career high in points — first set last week in the second round of this tournament against Villanova — despite the best efforts of Clark and Hunter, two of the Cavaliers’ soundest defensive players.
“That was the best performance I’ve ever seen,” Jerome said of Edwards. “That was the best performance I’ve played against. I don’t know. Kihei and Dre and both great on-ball defenders, and he just hit everything. Going to the basket, step-back threes. Unbelievable.
“I told him after the game that he’s a hell of a player.”
Jerome (24 points) then went into the stands to find his parents, first hugging his father, a basketball coach.
Soon after, the Cavaliers stepped onto the stage in the middle of the arena to receive the South Region trophy. Bennett was the first to hold it, and Diakite raised it high, displaying the hardware to Cavaliers fans who remained for the ceremony.
Players each had the opportunity to hold the trophy in the locker room after the game.
They weren’t even thinking about what’s ahead. That’s for Sunday when Virginia boards a plane back to Charlottesville.
“When I hugged my dad, and I was looking for my mom, I broke down,” Jerome said. “I started crying. I don’t think I’ve ever cried tears of joy on the basketball court before. I’ve never felt this high before. Before I think of anything else, I’m just going to enjoy the crap out of this tonight.”
— Gene Wang
“We made bad history last year,” Guy said in an interview on the TBS broadcast after the game. “We’re making great history this year.”
We need overtime
Carsen Edwards banked in a deep three-pointer to put Purdue up two with 1:10 left and Ryan Cline made a free throw to make it a three-point game. But Ty Jerome made one foul shot for Virginia and Mamadi Diakite made a jumper at the buzzer to tie the game at 70 and force overtime.
Purdue edges back in front
After trailing the entire second half, the Boilermakers engineered a 7-0 run to go ahead, 64-63, with 3 minutes to play. Carsen Edwards is pacing Purdue with 35 points.
Guy and Edwards going tit for tat
The second half has turned into a game of “horse” between Virginia’s Kyle Guy and Purdue’s Carsen Edwards. Guy has 19 points, 15 of them in the second half and all off three-pointers. Edwards has 30 points, 24 of them off threes and 14 of them in the second half.
Virginia’s Guy is back
Kyle Guy is back after rolling his ankle late in the first half, and he hit threes on the Cavaliers’ first two possessions of the half, as Virginia took a 35-30 lead.
Purdue leads Virginia, 30-29, at halftime
Virginia countered Purdue’s hot start — the Boilermakers once led by as much as 10 — with a 13-5 run to end the half and cut the lead to a single point. Purdue’s shooting has cooled significantly. After Coach Matt Painter’s team made its first four shots at the start of the game, the Boilermakers are shooting 40 percent from the field at halftime and 42.1 percent from three-point range.
Carsen Edwards spent most of the half on fire from beyond the arc. He leads all scorers with 16 points, a dozen of which have come off three-pointers. Virginia center Mamadi Diakite leads the Cavaliers with 10 points.
Virginia’s Guy injures ankle
Virginia star guard Kyle Guy rolled his ankle with 2 minutes to play in the first half, forcing him from the game. Guy averages 14.9 points per game with 4.4 rebounds. He had four points on 1 of 6 shooting with four rebounds at the time of the injury.
Carsen Edwards cannot be stopped
Edwards has 10 of Purdue’s last 13 points as the Boilermakers hold on to a 30-26 lead with 3 minutes left in the first half. He is shooting 45.8 percent from three-point range in the NCAA tournament.
Purdue starts hot
Boilermakers sharpshooters Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline have Purdue off to a rapid start. Purdue is 5 of 7 from three-point range midway through the first half. Cline and Edwards each have two of those three-pointers. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, are finding success offensively in the paint, but not from deep. They are 6 of 13 from the field and 0 of 4 from beyond the arc.
— Jacob Bogage
Elite Eight schedule
Kansas City (Midwest Region)
No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 5 Auburn, 2:20 p.m., CBS
Washington (East Region)
No. 1 Duke vs. No. 2 Michigan State, 5:05 p.m., CBS
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