MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Kyle Guy never let some shaky NCAA Tournament showings scare him away from taking the shots Virginia needed to win a national title.
It’s why Guy has his perfect ending a year after a humiliating loss, with a piece of clipped net stuck in his hat and standing as most outstanding player of the Final Four.
Guy scored 24 points Monday night in an 85-77 overtime win against Texas Tech, a match of defensive-minded teams that instead spent much of the game trading big shot after big shot.
“I’m a confident player and my teammates, they feed me a lot of confidence,” Guy said, adding: “I’m going to shoot whether it’s falling or not. I don’t really ever feel out of rhythm.”
The 6-foot-2 junior from Indianapolis had shot just 30.9% from the field and 22.7% from behind the arc during five NCAA Tournament games. But he had come up with huge moments in the Cavaliers’ last three games, starting with 25 points and 10 rebounds in the overtime win against Purdue in the Elite Eight.
He had 15 points in the national semifinals against Auburn, including a critical late 3-pointer followed by three straight free throws with 0.6 seconds left that gave Virginia a 63-62 lead.
This time, he was sharp from the start against the Red Raiders, scoring 10 in each half before going 4 for 4 at the line in the extra period as the Cavaliers finally broke free in a tense game. He also played all 45 minutes, the only player for either team to do so.
“He can play all night,” teammate Kihei Clark said. “He really moves on offense. He never really gets get tired. And then to play defense on them just shows you the kind of player he is. We have a bunch of great players, but when Kyle is making shots, it fuels us on defense.”
This was the moment Guy had dreamed of for the past year that had followed that still-incomprehensible loss to UMBC – the first time a No. 1 seed had lost to a No. 16 in tournament history. Guy had been open in social media posts in the week that followed about the fallout from that game, from death threats towards the players to openly discussing that he had been taking medication for anxiety attacks.
All year, the UMBC question dogged Guy and the Cavaliers. They patiently answered every time, though the questions became more frequent once the Cavaliers finally got to the NCAA Tournament again.
By Monday night, Guy and the Cavaliers had the final word.