MINNEAPOLIS — It took more than 40 minutes of basketball, but Virginia was able to finish off its perfect redemption story Monday night.
From losing to 16-seed UMBC a year ago, Virginia celebrated on the court after outlasting Texas Tech 85-77 in overtime at U.S. Bank Stadium to win the school’s first basketball national championship.
Sophomore guard De’Andre Hunter will go down forever in Virginia basketball lore. Hunter scored 22 of his game-high 27 points in the second half and overtime, leading Virginia to the win. Hunter hit a clutch 3-pointer with 14 seconds left to tie the score at 68 and send the game to overtime. Then, Hunter put Virginia ahead to stay in overtime with his fourth 3-pointer of the game, putting Virginia up 75-73 with 2:09 left in overtime.
Virginia senior guard and 2016 Indiana Mr. Basketball Kyle Guy added 24 points for Virginia (35-3), with Ty Jerome scoring 16 points.
Guy, a former Indianapolis prep standout, was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, averaging 19.5 points in two games.
“To battle everything that we’ve been through and come out on top, it’s an incredible feeling,” Guy said.
It also served as vindication for Virginia coach Tony Bennett, who since taking over the program in 2009 had failed to get the Cavaliers past the Elite Eight before this season. Bennett said the pain of losing to a 16 seed last season fueled this season’s title run.
“If you use it right, the adversity, it will buy you a ticket to a place you couldn’t have gotten to any other way,” Bennett said. “I don’t know, maybe we could have, but going through what we went through last year, I think, bought us a ticket to the national championship.”
Senior guard Brandone Francis led five Texas Tech scorers in double figures with 17 points. Jarrett Culver and Davide Moretti added 15 points for the Red Raiders (31-7), who came up just short in their attempt for the school’s first men's basketball national title.
For Francis, the big scoring game was bittersweet.
“I would have been happy with zero points if we were able to hold up the trophy at the end of the game,” Francis said. “It’s not about stats.”
For as well as Hunter played offensively for Virginia, he was equally as good defensively. Frustrating Culver, Texas Tech’s leading scorer, into a 5-for-22 shooting night.
“An incredible two-way performance,” Bennett said.
Virginia was up 53-43 when Guy hit a corner 3-pointer with 10:24 left, but was unable to put Texas Tech away. Texas Tech came storming all the way back behind Moretti and Francis, who continued to hit big shots. A driving layup by Francis cut Virginia’s lead to 55-49. After a Hunter putback put Virginia up 59-51, Texas Tech answered. Senior guard Matt Mooney hit his first 3-pointer to cut the Virginia lead to 59-56, then center Norense Odiase converted a three-point play to tie the score at 59 with 3:25 left.
It remained back and forth through the rest of regulation. Virginia appeared in control, up 65-61, when Guy made a driving layup with 1:43 left. But Moretti answered with a 3-pointer to cut Virginia’s lead to 65-64 with 1:31 left.
Culver’s driving layup put Texas Tech up 66-65 with 31.1 seconds left, and after a Jerome miss, Odiase made a pair of free throws to put Texas Tech up 68-65 with 22 seconds remaining. But Hunter was able to free himself up on the perimeter with 14 seconds left to hit a game-tying 3-pointer and send the national final to overtime.
Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said the goal in the final defensive possession was to not give up a 3-pointer or foul someone close to the basket for a potential three-point play.
“Having not watched the film, it looked like they penetrated our defense,” Beard said. “There was a drive-and-kick. But credit them for the execution and Hunter for making a big shot.”
Virginia appeared a team of destiny throughout its NCAA Tournament run. The Cavaliers won their Elite Eight matchup with Purdue in overtime after hitting a game-tying shot at the buzzer at the end of the regulation. Then, in Saturday’s Final Four matchup with Auburn, Virginia got three free throws from Guy with 0.6 of a second remaining to beat Auburn 63-62 in a wild finish.
For Texas Tech, the road to Monday’s title game wasn’t as dramatic. But behind Beard, a Bobby Knight disciple, the Red Raiders methodically dispatched five straight teams, including Michigan State on Saturday night.
Texas Tech senior forward Tariq Owens, hobbled with an ankle injury against Michigan State, started for the Red Raiders and had three points, four rebounds and one blocked shot in 17 first-half minutes.
Both teams worked through some early jitters, combining to go 1-of-10 from the field to start the game. Virginia was the first team to show signs of life offensively, as three straight baskets — a Guy jumper, Jerome 3-pointer and dunk by reserve forward Braxton Key — gave the Cavaliers an early 9-3 lead.
Texas Tech started 0-of-8 from the field before its first basket — a 3-pointer from Moretti with 12:30 left in the first half — cut Virginia’s lead to 9-6.
Virginia stretched its lead back out to 17-7 before Texas Tech started to figure out Virginia’s pack-line defense. Three straight Texas Tech 3-pointers, including two from Francis, cut Virginia’s lead to 19-16. Moretti then tied the game at 19 with another 3, sending Texas Tech fans in the building into a frenzy.
The rest of the half continued to see-saw through five ties and four lead changes. Down 29-27, Virginia closed the half with five straight points. A turn-around jumper from De’Andre Hunter tied the score at 29. Then, by working the ball inside-out, Virginia was able to find Jerome open on the perimeter for a wide-open 3-point attempt. Jerome sank the 3-point shot with two seconds remaining, putting Virginia up 32-29 at halftime.
Virginia shot 41.4 percent from the field in the first half, compared to 33.3 percent for Texas Tech.
The Cavaliers carried the momentum of Jerome’s shot into the second half. Guy got the second half going for Virginia with a 17-foot jumper, then Hunter heated up, hitting a bank shot to put Virginia up 40-31. Texas Tech rallied back, with back-to-back 3-pointers from guard Kyler Edwards and Francis cutting Virginia’s lead to 45-41. But Virginia answered with a Jerome jumper and Hunter 3-pointer to go back up 50-41 with 11:24 remaining.