Every program, or at least every fortunate program, has at least one great game they’ll always remember.
UConn and Syracuse have the six OT Big East classic. Houston has the Phi Slamma Jamma win over Louisville. NC State has the shocking win over Phi Slamma Jamma. Villanova has that still surreal victory over UNC in the 2016 national championship. Wake Forest has the Randolph Childress game where he faked UNC’s Jeff McInnis to the floor then waved him to get up and hit a three in his face.
And of course Duke has the Laettner game, the indelible win over Kentucky, who in turn has the ‘98 comeback over Duke.
Well you can put another game on the list for Virginia and Purdue.
Those teams did something special Saturday night, and in a cool exchange, Virginia’s Mamadi Diakite and Purdue’s Carsen Edwards sort of grinned at each other as if to say, can you believe we’re in a game like this?
It was like basketball crack.
Every big play led to another. Edwards was astonishing, hitting 10-19 on threes and finishing with 42.
As we thought might be the case, Kyle Guy broke out of his slump, hitting for 25 and shooting 5-12 himself.
As Barkley pointed out, Edwards was the only guy who scored more than seven points, but other than Tony Bennett, who cares? The kid rose to the occasion, and so did Guy. We were mildly disappointed in Ty Jerome who seemed to fade in pressure situations a couple of times, but it’s a big stage and he’s as human as anyone else.
All that aside though, the two guys who really made this game for UVA were Mamadi Diakite and Kihei Clark.
Diakite was really solid for UVA inside, finishing with 14 points, eight rebounds and four blocks.
Clark is a waterbug but he bothered Edwards a lot or at least enough to get him to miss some key shots and he combined with Diakite for a huge play: with Jerome on the line and time running down, Diakite knocked the rebound in the backcourt where Clark ran it down. He then got a pass ahead to Diakite as time ran out to tie the game and put it in overtime.
Then, in overtime, Clark chased Edwards down the sideline and watched as Edwards threw a bad pass for a turnover.
The Diakite-Clark play to end regulation was obviously critical but Clark’s defense on Edwards was also key.
The littlest man on the court came up bigger than anyone else and pretty much saved Virginia’s bacon.
With the win, UVA goes to the Final Four for the first time since 1984 where they’ll face either Auburn or Kentucky. We’d prefer Auburn if only to see the radical difference in style and which team could break the other. It’s fascinating to contemplate.
Just a quick note on the first game: it was almost as good as Purdue-Virginia. We feel bad for Gonzaga because it is legitimately a great team but Texas Tech is a rising power and Chris Beard is in a position to write his own check. People are going to come after him hard after the Final Four and we can think of one particular school, which has fallen on hard times lately, that could really use him.
We’re talking of course about UCLA. He’d be a monster in California with that talent base. That search is being kept very quiet but obviously they haven’t been sitting on their hands since firing Steve Alford.
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