Virginia and Texas Tech advance to NCAA title game

Virginia knocks off Auburn, and Tech defeats Michigan State in the Final Four to advance to the National Championship

Jon Simon
April 07, 2019 - 2:13 am

Photo: Robert Deutsch - USA TODAY Sports

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Two programs will be making their National Championship game debuts on Monday night in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Virginia Cavaliers, the only 1-seed in the Final Four, defeated the Auburn Tigers in the first national semifinal matchup on Saturday night; and the Texas Tech Red Raiders bested the Michigan State Spartans in game No. 2.

Virginia slipped past Auburn 63-62, thanks to three free throws from Kyle Guy with 0.6-seconds to go. Guy was bumped in the corner by Auburn’s Samir Doughty while attempting a last-second three-pointer and hit all three shots from the line to put the Cavaliers in front.

Auburn was on a 12-game win streak heading into the Final Four and played Virginia tight in the first half. The Tigers led the Cavaliers 31-28 after a back-and-forth opening 20 minutes.

Virginia held a 10-point lead with 5:24 to go after a three from Ty Jerome. Auburn responded with a 14-0 run and held a 61-57 lead with 17-seconds left on the clock.

Guy hit a three to cut the Virginia deficit to one with 10-seconds left. Virginia fouled seconds later and sent Auburn’s Jared Harper to the free throw line. Harper made his first free throw to make it 62-60 but missed the second.

The Tigers had fouls to give and used two in the final seconds to slow Virginia down. There was a bit of controversy just before one of the foul calls was made. Jerome appeared to double-dribble after he picked up the ball to gather it after bouncing it off his leg. If the violation had been called, Auburn would’ve gotten the ball back up two with five seconds to go.

Jerome led all scorers with 21 points and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds for Virginia. Guy finished with 15 points for the Cavaliers and De’Andre Hunter finished third in scoring with 14.

Doughty led Auburn with 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting along with five rebounds and a pair of threes. Bryce Brown finished with 12 points for the Tigers to go with three assists and three boards. Harper added 11 points and was the only other Auburn player to finish in double figures.

In the second semifinal game, Texas Tech turned in another stellar defensive performance to best Michigan State 61-51. It wasn’t a very stressful game for Red Raider fans. Tech controlled the pace most of the game and completely locked up the Spartan offense. Michigan State shot just 32% from the field and 29% from three.

Jarrett Culver, a projected top pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, scored just one point in the first half and finished with 10. Matt Mooney shouldered the offensive load for the Red Raiders. The graduate transfer finished with a game-high 22 points and shot 4-for-8 from three.

The first half featured a lot of missed shots, turnovers and scoring droughts. Texas Tech held a slim 23-21 lead at halftime despite scoring just two points in the final five minutes of the period.

The Red Raiders built a sizeable lead midway through the second half and went up by as much as 13 points. Michigan State’s shooters never found a rhythm and the Texas Tech defense clogged up the paint, allowing little to no space to work inside the arc.

The Spartans managed to hang around and make the game interesting despite their subpar offensive performance. Michigan State went on a 13-2 run late in the second half and cut the deficit to one with 2:55 to go.

Texas Tech shut Michigan State from that point on and scored the last nine points of the game. The Spartans committed two costly turnovers in the final two minutes and missed their last four shots.

Cassius Winston shot a poor 4-for-16 from the field but still lead the Spartans with 16 points. Senior Matt McQuaid finished with 12 points in his final collegiate game and freshman Aaron Henry added 11.

Monday’s National Championship game may not be a high scoring affair as Virginia and Texas Tech feature the top-two defenses in college basketball. The winner could very well be the first team to 60 points, if either side even scores that much. History will be made however, as one program will bring home it’s first national title.

The paths that Virginia and Texas Tech have taken to get to the title game are more intriguing than their playing styles. For the Cavaliers, they’re looking to fully redeem themselves and make up for last year’s loss to 16-seed UMBC in the first round. On the other side, Texas Tech is in the midst of their best season in program history. They’ve followed up an Elite Eight last season with an incredible run this year, defeating some of the top teams in the country along the way. Their head coach, Chris Beard, was also recently named National Coach of the Year.

The National Championship is scheduled to tip-off at 9:20 p.m. and will be televised on CBS. You can also listen to the game along with pre-game coverage on WGR 550.

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