MINNEAPOLIS– Basketball is a game of inches. A composition of plays, where a turnover, a missed free throw or a late foul, can be the difference between winning and losing. Kyle Guy would experience this first hand down the stretch in their National Semifinal matchup. With Auburn up two points in the dying seconds, Kyle Guy would take a do or die three, resulting in a subsequent foul. Guy, with insurmountable pressure on his shoulders, drained the three free throws, sending Virginia to its first National Championship in program history.
“These are the moments that every basketball players dreams of,” said Guy after the game. “I had a feeling in my stock, the good kind of nervousness. This was my chance. To be able to go to the National Championship off of that, I don’t have the words.”
Virginia Survived the Onslaught of Auburn
Kyle Guy would put up 15 points, three rebounds and four assists in Virginia’s thrilling 63-62 win over Auburn. The game was even most of the way, as Auburn showcased its ability to force turnovers and play with speed in the transition. Virginia played ferocious defense, with stellar ball movement from Guy, Ty Jerome, and De’Andre Hunter.
In the first half, Auburn had a 31-28 lead, dictated by their ability to win on the glass. The Tigers outrebounded Virginia 20 to 14. As Virginia coach Tony Bennett alludes, the Cavaliers stepped up their post play, preventing second-chance rebounds from Auburn inside.
“We had some errors defensively [in the first half]” said Bennett. “I thought we improved on that in the second half. We tried to move them, and they didn’t shoo it as well in the second half.”
When Kyle Guy converted a three late in the second half, it put Virginia up 10 points. It had appeared that the nail was put in the coffin for Auburn’s fate. But Auburn played to Virginia’s pace the entire game. They rallied with three-pointers and getting a multitude of scorers, more than just Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. Similar to Kentucky, the Auburn Tigers hung around long enough to eventually win. With Auburn taking the lead, Virginia had to find a way to survive and advance, reminiscent of how they beat Purdue in the Elite Eight.
Their toughness, translated through the leadership of Coach Bennett, shined through as Virginia endured Auburn’s onslaught. And it was Kyle Guy, Virginia’s go-to player, to do it not beyond the arc but at the free throw line. With Virginia struggling in free throws all night, the Cavaliers found their guy in Kyle Guy.
“We were 6 of 12 from the line, and we struggled all night in free throws, so for him to do it, it doesn’t get much better than that,” says Bennett.
As National Championship Looms, Don’t Count Out Kyle Guy in Creating More History
The Virginia Cavaliers are now 6-3 when trailing at the half and now 11-0 when scoring less than 30 points in the first half. This should give their National Championship opponent, the Texas Tech Red Raiders, tons of worry, given the offensive weapons that Virginia has at their disposal.
It was the 31st time this season that Kyle Guy has scored in double figures. The past 16 games, Virginia’s offensive efficiency is over 120. A large part of this is due to the skilled shooting of Kyle Guy, who has made 42.3 percent of Virginia’s total three-pointers attempted this season.
Guy was born and raised in the basketball mecca of Indianapolis. Attending Lawrence Central High School, he possessed the innate offensive tools and shooting ability that would make him prolific in college. His 15.2 points per game, 4.6 rebounds per game and 2.1 assists per game highlights the numerous ways he impacts the Virginia offense.
But when it mattered most, Kyle Guy delivered. A large amount of college basketball games depends on players’ abilities to shoot from the free throw line. If Jared Harper had sunk the free throw earlier, it would have put Auburn up three instead of two. Kyle Guy’s clutch night may not have occurred.
While the foul on Guy was non-controversial, the timing could not have been more unfortunate for Auburn. The real controversy surrounds Ty Jerome’s apparent double dribble, which was not called. Despite all of this, the situation at hand was for Guy to sink three free throws to send his team to the National Championship.
“I practiced those shots as a kid. I just wanted to be in my own space,” said Guy. “Whatever it takes to win.”