Final Four brings redemption for Cavaliers

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- In the aftermath of Saturday's overtime win against Purdue that clinched a Final Four spot for Virginia, things came full circle for the Cavaliers' Kyle Guy.

“I tried to take a moment at the end of overtime," Guy told a crowd of reporters in the UVA locker room. "I got back on my knees, my hands on my knees at half court, just like I was last year when we lost. It’s a different feeling, and I really soaked that moment up.”

Last March, Guy's pose became one of the timeless images of UVA's historic loss to UMBC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Prior to that night in Charlotte, a No. 16 seed had never beaten a No. 1 seed in the first round.

On Saturday, the Wahoos withstood a historic performance by Purdue guard Carsen Edwards to beat the Boilermakers 80-75 in overtime in the South Region championship game. The win will send UVA to Minneapolis next weekend for the program's first Final Four appearance in 35 years.

“We have had a little bit of a roller coaster ride over the past few years," conceded UVA forward Jay Huff. "So to be able to make a Final Four right now, it’s just amazing.”

“I was speechless," said UVA guard Ty Jerome. "I hugged as many people as I could. I touched as many fans as I could. I hugged coach, told him I loved him. I found my dad, hugged him. Got a little emotional.”

“I’ve always wanted to play in a Final Four," said UVA guard De'Andre Hunter. "It’s a big reason why I came back, to make it to the Final Four. And it’s just a dream come true.”

The Wahoos made that dream come true in spite of a 42-point effort by Edwards that included 10 3-pointers. That performance came in what amounted to a road game for UVA, with the KFC Yum! Center filled largely with Purdue supporters.

“It helps that we’ve been in this building," UVA associate head coach Jason Williford said afterward. "I said before the game, I told the guys it’s just a regular season game. It’s a ‘black out’ and we’ve got to go play.”

“It was a road game," agreed UVA freshman guard Kihei Clark. "It was all black and gold in the stands, it seemed like. But we’re used to it.”

“Their crowd was phenomenal," said Williford. "But our guys, they put the work in. They’re a confident bunch, and they responded.”

Saturday marked 379 days since UVA's loss to UMBC. That game was often brought up throughout the Cavaliers' season -- and especially during this year's NCAA Tournament. According to the Wahoos, memories of that night made Saturday's celebration that much sweeter.

“It stung. It was as I said, a painful gift. It was so humbling," UVA head coach Tony Bennett said. "But it drew me and drew our team closer, in a way that we couldn’t have gone.”

“Nobody knows the pressure. Nobody knows what it was like last year at this time," said Williford. "And to be here where we are right now, this is big time.”

“Virginia is a joke. Virginia will never win in March. You name it, they said it," said Jerome. "Without losing to the 16-seed. Without everyone saying you will never win. Without all of that, it wouldn’t be the same. It wouldn’t be the same.”



 
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