“I wish it wouldn’t have happened in some ways. Now I say, ‘Well, it bought us a ticket here. So be it.’”
Tony Bennett | Head coach, UVA men’s basketball team
(on last year’s opening round loss)
What I love most about last night’s NCAA basketball win for UVA is the bounce back from last year’s crushing defeat in the big tournament … losing by 20 points and becoming the first-ever number 1 seed to lose to a bottom-bracket seed in the opening round.
Heartbreaking for everyone involved.
And that’s just one of the things that makes last night’s win so inspiring. The others…
Down by 2 in last second of the 4th round (v. Purdue), a beautiful pass (Kihei Clark) and final shot (Mamadi Diakite) sent UVA into overtime giving them the opportunity to win by 5 points.
Then a week later, with 7 seconds left of the 5th round game (v. Auburn), a 21-year-old junior (Kyle Guy) hits a 3-point shot to put the team within 2 of the leaders. Six seconds later, he’s trusted with the final 3-point attempt to win the game and gets fouled … giving him 3 free throws with less than a second left in the game. He had to make all 3 to win … which he calmly did … a 212 finish for sure.
Then during last night’s final, down by 3 points with 13 seconds left in the game, a 21-year-old sophomore (De’Andre Hunter) drains a 3-pointer from the corner to tie it up … giving UVA the opportunity to win by 8 points in overtime.
Side note: Hunter missed 7 of his first 8 shots in the first half and went on to lead the team’s scoring with 27 points (that’s Cross The Line resilience). Last year, Hunter broke his wrist just before the big tournament and was out for the season. This guy knows how to bounce back.
I know there are fans of different teams out there lamenting over the bad calls and bad breaks that led to this year’s ‘string of luck’ for UVA. I don’t think that’s a productive way to think.
It’s clear these winners (individually and collectively) kept moving … kept Rising & Reaching … regardless of the situation they found themselves in.
That’s a beautiful thing.
I sometimes find it frustrating when people talk as if the last moments of any close game that become critical didn’t have an enormous amount of critical work that led to that critical moment. (There are 211 degrees before the 212th.)
If we missed you earlier this year … Get a 3-minute lesson on objectivity from another 21-year-old athlete, Naomi Osaka (the number 1 tennis player in the world).