Minneapolis was the center of the sports world once again on Monday night.
U.S. Bank Stadium was packed full when the Texas Tech Red Raiders and Virginia Cavaliers took the court, both seeking their first national title in men's basketball. The matchup figured to reaffirm the old cliche that defense wins championships, as both sides ranked among the toughest squads to score against in the nation.
Instead, both teams caught fire from beyond the arc and played an overtime thriller that continued the stretch of exhilarating games in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. The game required a five-minute overtime period. When the contest concluded, Virginia (35-3, 16-2 ACC) celebrated a national championship and cut down the nets with a 85-77 victory over Texas Tech (31-7, 14-4 Big 12).
"It was a terrific game," said Virginia head coach Tony Bennett. "To see how these guys played, these guys stepped up."
The defenses lived up to their reputations early, taking away shots at the rim. To start the game, both teams made just one of their first 10 field goal attempts. Virginia then began to find their stroke from the outside, using a 15-4 run to build a 10-point lead halfway through the opening period.
Suddenly, Texas Tech began to knock down shots. The Red Raiders connected on four 3-pointers in just over two minutes, tying the game at 19. It came as part of a 18-4 run that gave Texas Tech a 4-point advantage with 4:52 until the intermission. That edge didn't last long, however, as Virginia junior Ty Jerome hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Cavaliers a 32-29 halftime lead.
The Cavaliers pushed their lead to nine, scoring the first six points of the second half. Then, for the majority of the half, the teams traded baskets. Virginia's lead never exceeded 10 points, and Texas Tech continued to hit shots when they needed them most. With under 5:30 remaining, an 8-0 Red Raider run tied the game.
"We felt like we had the momentum," said Texas Tech sophomore Jarrett Culver. "We came back from 10 points down, so we for sure felt like we had momentum. We just didn't come out on top today."
With 14 seconds left, Texas Tech had pulled in front, but a 3-pointer from Virginia sophomore De'Andre Hunter sent the game to overtime. In the extra period, the Cavaliers went on an 11-0 run comprised of eight free throws, and another Hunter 3-pointer sealed the program's first national title.
Despite only having five points in the first half, Hunter came alive when it mattered most to finish with a career-high 27 points. He shot 8-16, including 4-5 from beyond the arc, and pulled down nine rebounds.
"I just tried to be aggressive," Hunter said. "I was aggressive in the first half, my shots just weren't falling. I just tried to do the same thing in the second half and my shots were falling."
Virginia junior Kyle Guy also had a big game, scoring 24 points and playing all 45 minutes of regulation and overtime. After the game, Guy was named the NCAA Tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
"[Guy] has something in him," Bennett said. "He has something that, in big games, he makes big plays. He has great confidence in himself."
For the Cavaliers, this championship erases the demons of last season, when they became the first No. 1 seed to lose in the first round, falling to No. 16 seed UMBC, 74-54. Now, having reached the highest of highs, the pain of last year has faded away for the team's players.
"Forget last year, this is just everything you dream of since you were a little kid," Jerome said. "I'm not even thinking about UMBC right now. This is a dream come true."