Back and forth they went, trading baskets and elbows, turning what began as a wrestling match into one of the great men’s NCAA championship basketball games.
The future lottery picks, Jarrett Culver and De’Andre Hunter, had flipped the lids off the peach baskets in the second half, and Texas Tech and Virginia dueled down the stretch and then into overtime, the first for the men’s national championship game since 2008.
Virginia won, 85-77, for a strange reason: Texas Tech blew a defensive gasket.
With Tech leading 68-65 with less than 20 seconds left in regulation, Virginia guard Kyle Guy drove to the basket. Tech, for some reason, contested his drive, leaving Hunter open in the corner. Hunter swished a three-pointer, the game went to overtime and Virginia dominated, earning its first men’s basketball national championship.
U.S. Bank Stadium knows how to host these big games. Monday’s title bout was remindful of the Eagles’ shootout with the Patriots in the Super Bowl two winters ago.
The key play for the Eagles was ``Philly Special,’’ and the key player for Virginia was a special talent from Philly - Hunter.
Hunter started overtime with two free throws. Then Matt Mooney -- the kid who transferred from South Dakota -- swished a long three-pointer.
Mooney dribbled into the lane, got trapped, and threw up a desperate fadeaway that clanked before falling through. Tech led 73-70.
Virginia’s Kyle Guy drew a foul and made two free throws, and then Hunter, taking control of a hard-to-handle game, made a contested three-pointer from the corner -- mimicking the shot that sent the game to overtime =- to make it 75-73.
The first half began as a mud-wrestling match before the teams warmed to the task. The teams combined to make one of their first 10 shots. With 14:40 left in the first half, Tech led 3-2.
Texas Tech did not make a two-point field goal until 4:52 remained in the half.
Hunter and Culver went 1-13 in first half.
The game would change from a tussle into a classic in the second half, the night ending with confetti floating through the air.
Jim Souhan's podcasts can be found at TalkNorth.com