One of the games from Virginia’s magical run to the National Championship is getting an encore. UVA will travel to Purdue, who it defeated in the Elite Eight to reach the Final Four, on Wednesday, Dec. 4 as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge this season.
The rematch will have a difficult time matching the tournament game. That one, after all, was an instant classic. The two teams played for 45 minutes with 12 lead changes and 6 ties and also combined for 23 3-pointers and 23 assists with just 14 turnovers. Three different players scored at least 24 points, which included an en fuego night from Purdue’s Carsen Edwards en route to 42 points.
The Cavaliers overcame that explosive performance and saved their season with an incredible sequence in the final 5.9 seconds of regulation before they won in overtime 80-75. In order to survive and advance, Virginia needed Mamadi Diakite to beat the buzzer from around 14 feet and force overtime. Only, this wasn’t a standard run-of-the-mill last-second shot. In order for Diakite to get the ball in that spot, Ty Jerome missed a free throw unintentionally, Kihei Clark tracked down a back-tapped offensive rebound near the opposite 3-point line, and then got a one-handed return pass off the dribble to Diakite in time to make his shot.
It’s a sequence that Boilermaker fans likely will see multiple times surrounding the rematch this winter, unfortunately. As for Hoo fans, well just put the darn thing on loop, right?!
Of course, the characters for the Challenge game will be different. Virginia will be without four of the lead actors from the Elite Eight contest. Ty Jerome played 45 minutes, while Kyle Guy and Diakite each logged 42 minutes. De’Andre Hunter posted 36 minutes, while Jack Salt played 34. Clark was on the floor for 24 minutes. Jerome, Guy, Hunter, and Salt all wrapped up their careers with the Cavaliers.
Diakite, however, tested the NBA Draft waters and then decided to return. That means the Clark to Diakite connection that broke Purdue fans’ hearts – the Boilermakers haven’t been to the Final Four since 1980 – is back and those two players will help lead the Hoos into West Lafayette for this game. They’ll likely get a tough reception, though that may not be too different from the tournament game in Louisville, which resembled a Purdue home game anyway with black and gold everywhere.
The Boilermakers, meanwhile, lost Edwards as an underclassman with NBA hopes like Jerome, Guy, and Hunter. Ryan Cline, who played 44 minutes like Edwards, and Grady Eifert, who tallied 18 minutes, finished up as seniors too. Nojel Eastern, Matt Haarms, Aaron Wheeler, and Trevion Williams all picked up at least 15 minutes in the tournament game and are expected back, though.
Beyond the storyline of the tournament remix, this pairing pits two of the better teams in ACC-Big Ten Challenge history. Purdue leads the Big Ten with a 10-8 all-time mark in this event, while UVA is second in the ACC at 13-6. The Cavaliers have won five straight Challenge games and eight of their last nine. In other words, this should be an interesting matchup for early December.