Head coach Tony Bennett of the Virginia Cavaliers and head coach Chris Beard of the Texas Tech Red Raiders shake hands prior to the 2019 NCAA men's Final Four National Championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 08, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Bennett and the Cavaliers found themselves in a hard position past year after becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed with their loss to UMBC. They managed to right their wrong this season with wins over Gardner-Webb, Oklahoma, Oregon, Purdue, and Auburn before clinching the title against Texas Tech. De'Andre Hunter scored a career-high 27 points, 22 of which were scored after halftime.
A member of the so-called Big Three on Virginia this season along with guards Kyle Guy (24 points) - who was selected as the Final Four's most outstanding player - and Ty Jerome (16 points, eight assists, one turnover), Hunter may not be back next season, assuming he declares for the National Basketball Association draft.
Hunter's pair of 3-point shots rescued the Cavaliers after a 10-point lead with 10:24 in regulation time had slipped away.
Monday night's championship game against the Cavaliers could very well be a low-scoring and tight contest that will come down to which team can best execute its half-court sets against the opposition's stingy defense. The final score ended 85-77, and the Cavaliers were champs.
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But Virginia came straight back as Kyle Guy made two free throws and Hunter hit another corner three for a 75-73 advantage with two minutes remaining.
"We (Jerome and Guy) came in together and said that we were going to win a national championship, and to be able to hug each other with confetti going everywhere and say we did it, it's the greatest feeling I've ever felt in basketball". Guy made a three on the first possession, and a pair of free throws from Hunter put the Cavaliers up 37-29. Texas Tech beat Texas A&M in that 1992 football game. They patiently answered every time, though the questions became more frequent once the Cavaliers finally got to the NCAA Tournament again. I said, 'We're asking you to build on that foundation, and even at that house, that's going to be the hardest step.
They fell behind by 10 twice in this game - seemingly too much in a matchup between two legendary defenses that allowed way more than the projected total of 118 points - but just kept coming back. "And I told them, I just want a chance at a title fight one day". He added seven rebounds and one assist.
"I just tried to be aggressive", Hunter said. "I just wished we could have finished it off". The last time the NCAA had a first-time champion was thirteen years ago when the University of Florida bested UCLA in 2006.