A year after their coach made them face the first first-round loss by an NCAA tournament No. 1 seed ever, Virginia teammates Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome returned to another postgame news conference following the Cavaliers’ dizzying, last-second 63-62 victory over Auburn on Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
This time, they spoke to reporters after they led their school to its first national championship game.
A year ago, they waited in a holding area after they lost to No. 16 Maryland-Baltimore County while Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett decided he wasn’t taking his seniors with him to meet the media. He told both Guy and Jerome — sophomores at the time — to come along instead.
“I told them that’s going to be one of the hardest things, facing that press conference, but it starts now,” Bennett said Saturday night. “It’s going to mark something. I said, ‘We’re going to get through this, but you guys need to be up there with me and we need to go through this and we need to go through next year together.’
“I knew it was going to be such an important time in our lives, no matter how it played out.”
It played out Saturday night in a last-second finish that was as wild, wacky and confusing as any you will ever see.
Guy made three deciding free throws with 0.6 seconds left after a controversial foul call on his three-point attempt — and after the stadium public-address announcer already had called Auburn a winner.
Jerome scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds from his guard position Saturday, while Guy’s 15 points included his three clutch, flawless final free throws.
“Now to sit with them here brings great joy to my heart,” Bennett said. “It really does, because it’s good. That’s all I can say and I’m so thankful.”
Like father, like son
Bennett and his dad, Dick, became the second father-son pairing to each coach a team to the Final Four, joining Georgetown’s John Thompson and John Thompson III.
But Dick Bennett wasn’t there. He stayed behind at the hotel because he has too much angst watching his son coach. He was in attendance for both games last weekend in Louisville, Ky., when Virginia won twice to reach its first Final Four since 1984.
“He’s going to be mad at me because we didn’t defend well enough,” Tony Bennett said of Dick, who led Wisconsin to the Final Four in 2000, when Tony was a Badgers assistant. “That’ll probably be what I get. But we’ll tighten it up and be ready to play whoever we get.”
• Auburn coach Bruce Pearl was right: Some sniffles and coughing weren’t going to keep Tigers guards Jared Harper and Bryce Brown from playing in the Final Four semifinal. Neither player was feeling well Thursday and Friday. Each started the game and played on. Auburn’s leading scorer, Brown, scored nine points in his team’s late 14-0 run.
• Virginia reserve guard Braxton Key played an Auburn team he faced for two seasons before he transferred from Alabama. “I definitely want to beat Auburn,” said Key, who played 10 minutes and scored two points Saturday. “Coming from Alabama, the rivalry is still instilled in me.”