Dick Bennett has a tough time watching Virginia games — with son Tony coaching — in person. It’s even more stressful for Dick than it was in his own coaching days, which included a trip to the 2000 Final Four with Wisconsin.
But after skipping Virginia’s first Final Four game, a thrilling Saturday victory over Auburn, Dick Bennett decided he couldn’t miss being at U.S. Bank Stadium on Monday night, with Tony and the Cavaliers trying to win their first NCAA championship.
It took another heart-stopping stretch against Texas Tech, and the first NCAA title game to go to overtime since 2008, but Virginia earned an 85-77 triumph before an announced crowd of 72,062.
“I needed to be here,” Dick Bennett said after hugging his son on the court during the postgame celebration. “The thrill is worth the anguish, believe me.”
De’Andre Hunter, who finished with a career-high 27 points, sent the game into overtime with a tying three-pointer with 12 seconds left in regulation. His three-pointer with two minutes left in overtime gave the winners a lead for good at 75-73.
Cavs guard Kyle Guy scored 24 points and was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.
This marked the third consecutive game that Virginia’s tournament fate was in question going into the final seconds of regulation.
The Elite Eight victory over Purdue will be remembered for Kihei Clark’s brilliant pass, and Mamadi Diakite’s game-tying shot at the buzzer, which forced overtime.
Then against Auburn, Virginia trailed by four points with 10 seconds remaining before Guy hit a three-pointer and then was fouled shooting another one with 0.6 seconds left. He hit all three free throws for that one-point win.
“We have a saying, ‘The most faithful wins,’ ” Tony Bennett said. “These guys stayed so faithful, and obviously they had some amazing plays.”
The Cavaliers, or beloved “Hoos” for their blue-and-orange clad faithful, reached the sport’s pinnacle one year after a stunning NCAA tournament upset, the first time a No. 1 seed had lost to a No. 16 seed — and by 20 points, against Maryland-Baltimore County.
“People were bringing that up all year, but we’re national champions right now,” Hunter said. “I don’t think there’s much a hater can say now.”
Ty Jerome hit a three-pointer right before halftime, giving Virginia a 32-29 lead. The Cavaliers (35-3) extended that lead to nine points early in the second half but couldn’t put away pesky Texas Tech (31-7).
The teams traded leads late in regulation and early in overtime.
After Hunter’s three-pointer put Virginia on top by two in the extra period, the Cavaliers put the game away at the free-throw line, where they finished 20-for-23 for the game.
Guy was joined on the all-tournament team by Hunter and teammate Ty Jerome, along with Matt Mooney and Jarrett Culver from Texas Tech.
Culver, like Hunter, is a projected NBA lottery pick, but he shot only 5-for-22 from the field, struggling most of the night against Hunter’s stifling defense.
“[Hunter’s] a great player, athletic,” Culver said. “He played me well.”
Brandone Francis led the Red Raiders with 17 points. Culver and Davide Moretti had 15 each.
Texas Tech missed a chance to win only the second title for a Texas school, joining the historic 1966 Texas Western team, the first to win with a starting lineup of all black players.
“We’ll bounce back,” said Texas Tech coach Chris Beard, who led the team to the Elite Eight last season. “In terms of Texas Tech basketball, we’re not going anywhere. We’ll be back in this tournament sooner than later, and we intend to be a part of college basketball as we build the program.”
After the game, Tony Bennett pointed out that his team also trailed Gardner Webb by 14 points in the first round before avoiding another 16-over-1 upset.
He said he told his players, “You guys faced pressure that no team in the history of the game has faced … and you did not panic in that moment, and you fought, and you found a way out. That, I think, has prepared you for this moment to be able to handle the pressure or the intensity of a national championship game.”
Asked what it was like to watch this time, as his son won his first NCAA title, Dick Bennett said, “Words aren’t very accurate when emotions outrun them, and that’s where I am right now.”